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THE ONE I KNEW THE 
BEST OF ALL 



MRS. BURNETT'S BOOKS. 



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THE ONE I KNEW THE BEST OF ALL. 

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THE SMALL PERSON AND THE SECRETAIRE. 



THE ONE I KNEW THE 
BEST OF ALL 



H flfcemorp of tbe /IFMnfc of a Cbtlfc 



BY 

FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT 



ILLUSTRATED BY 

REGINALD B. BIRCH 



NEW YORK 
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

1893 



COPYRIGHT, 1893, BY 
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 



TROW DIRECTORY 

PRINTING AND BOOKBINDING COMPANY 
NEW YORK 



DM5CARD 



PREFACE 

I SHOULD feel a serious delicacy in present- 
ing to the world a sketch so autobiographical as 
this if I did not feel myself absolved from any 
charge of the bad taste of personality by the fact 
that I believe I might fairly entitle it " The Story 
of any Child with an Imagination." My impres- 
sion is that the Small Person differed from a world 
of others only in as far as she had more or less 
imagination than other little girls. I have so often 
wished that I could see the minds of young things 
with a sight stronger than that of very interested 
eyes, which can only see from the outside. There 
must be so many thoughts for which child courage 
and child language have not the exact words. So, 
remembering that there was one child of whom I 
could write from the inside point of view, and 
with certain knowledge, I began to make a little 
sketch of the one I knew the best of all. It was 



viii Preface 

only to be a short sketch in my first intention, but 
when I besran it I found so much to record which 

o 

seemed to me amusing and illustrative, that the 
short sketch became a long one. After all, it was 
not myself about whom I w r as being diffuse, but a 
little unit of whose parallels there are tens of 
thousands. The Small Person is gone to that un- 
discoverable far-away land where other Small 
Persons have emigrated the land to whose re- 
gretted countries there wandered, some years ago, 
two little fellows, with picture faces and golden 
love-locks, whom I have mourned and longed for 
ever since, and whose going with my kisses on 
their little mouths has left me forever a sadder 
woman, as all other mothers are sadder, whatso- 
ever the dearness of the maturer creature left be- 
hind to bear the same name and smile with eyes 
not quite the same. As I might write freely 
about them, so I feel I may write freely about 
her. 

FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT. 

MAY, 1892. 




CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I. 



The One I Knew the Best of All, 



PAGE 

/ 



CHAPTER II. 

The Flower Book and Testament, . 



21 



CHAPTER /I/. 



The Back Garden of Eden, 



PAGE 



x Contents 

CHAPTER IV. 
Literature and tbe Doll, 44 

CHAPTER V. 
Islington Square, 70 

CHAPTER VI. 
A Confidence Betrayed, 90 

CHAPTER VII. 
Tbe Secretaire, 709 

CHAPTER VIII. 
Tbe Party, 729 

CHAPTER IX. 
Tbe Wedding, . 142 

CHAPTER X. 
Tbe Strange Thing, 756 

CHAPTER XI. 
"Mamma" and tbe First One, . . . . ij6 



Contents xi 



CHAPTER XII. 



PAGE 



" Edith Somerville" and Raw Turnips, . . 208 

CHAPTER XIII. 

Christopher Columbus, ...... 228 

CHAPTER XIV. 

The Dry ad Days, 257 

CHAPTER XV. 

" My Object is Remuneration," .... 286 

CHAPTER XVI. 

And So She Did, 31 3 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

The Small Person and the Secretaire, . Frontispiece 
Vignette, ........ Contents ix 

" / am not holding her" She Said, . .... 8 

" Yes" He Said, " / should have to pick you up and carry 

you at once to prison" ...... 20 



When She Stood by Her Grandmamma's Knee, . . 

" Tha needn't say nowt about it," Said Emma, . . 37 

She Confessed Herself to Him, ...... 41 

As She Brutally Lashed a Cheerfully Hideous Black 

Gutta-percha Doll, ....... jj 

" Sitting on the Lamp Post" ...... 72 

But the Girl Walked Calmly Before Him, 83 

" Is it a very new one ? " They Asked, 98 



xiv List of Illustrations 

PAGE 

The Three Unrestrainable Small Persons in Various 

Stages of Undress, ....... 7j6 

" Will you dance this waltz with me?' .... 139 

The two Pink Silk Frocks lay upon the Bed, . . . 

She put out Her Hand and Touched the Unsmiling 
Cheek, ......... 

And She Bent Over and Kissed Her Round Check, . . 

" What is Improving, Mamma ?" . . . . . 

She Laughed a great deal as She was Doing It, . . 202 

" // why, it is so clever / ' . . . . . . 206 

The Woes and Raptures of Edith Somerville, . . . 220 

The Poor were Starving, ....... 2jg 

The First Bales of Cotton, ...... 242 

The Small Person Looked upon her with Deference and 

Yearning, ......... 245 

" Good-by" He Said. " / hope you will like America," . 248 
" Oh, dear ! Now Fm going to America," . . . 250 
{i I have found a Pimpernel !' 259 



List of Illustrations xv 



PAGE 



// Became one of her Pleasures to Watch a Bird Light 

upon a Low Branch, ....... 271 

With the Little Cat Curled up in her Left Arm, . . 288 

They Chased about the Warm, Yellowing Woods like 

Wild Things, 309 

" Thirty-five dollars" He Said, Staring at Her, . . 324 



THE ONE I KNEW THE BEST OF ALL 

A MEMORY OF THE MIND OF A CHILD 

CHAPTER I 

The One I Knew the Best of All 

I HAD every opportunity for knowing her 
well, at least. We were born on the same day, we 
learned to toddle about together, we began our 
earliest observations of the world we lived in at 
the same period, we made the same mental re- 
marks on people and things, and reserved to our- 
selves exactly the same rights of private personal 
opinion. 

I have not the remotest idea of what she looked 
like. She belonged to an era when photography 
was not as advanced an art as it is to-day, and no 
picture of her was ever made. It is a well-authen- 
ticated fact that she was auburn-haired and rosy, 
and I can testify that she was curly, because one 
of my earliest recollections of her emotions is a 
memory of the momentarily maddening effect of a 
sharp, stinging jerk of the comb when the nurse 



2 The One I Knew the Best of All 

was absent-minded or maladroit. That she was 
also a plump little person I am led to believe, in 
consequence of the well-known joke of a ribald boy 
cousin and a disrespectful brother, who averred 
that when she fell she " bounced " like an india- 
rubber ball. For the rest, I do not remember 
what the looking-glass reflected back at her, 
though I must have seen it. It might, conse- 
quently, be argued that on such occasions there 
were so many serious and interesting problems to 
be attended to that a reflection in the looking- 
glass was an unimportant detail. 

In those early days I did not find her personally 
interesting in fact, I do not remember regarding 
her as a personality at all. It was the people about 
her, the things she saw, the events which made up 
her small existence, which were absorbing, excit- 
ing, and of the most vital and terrible importance 
sometimes. It was not until I had children of my 
own, and had watched their small individualities 
forming themselves, their large imaginations giv- 
ing proportions and values to things, that I began 
to remember her as a little Person ; and in going 
back into her past and reflecting on certain details 
of it and their curious effects upon her, I found 
interest in her and instruction, and the most 
serious cause for tender deep reflection on her as 
a thing touching on that strange, awful problem 
of a little soul standing in its newness in the great 



The One I Knew the Best of All 3 

busy, tragic world of life, touched for the first 
time by everything that passes it, and never 
touched without some sign of the contact being 
left upon it. 

What I remember most clearly and feel most 
serious is one thing above all : it is that I have no 
memory of any time so early in her life that she 
was not a distinct little individual. Of the time 
when she was not old enough to formulate opi- 
nions quite clearly to herself I have no recollec- 
tion, and I can remember distinctly events which 
happened before she was three years old. The 
first incident which appears to me as being inter- 
esting, as an illustration of what a baby mind is 
doing, occurred a week or so after the birth of 



her sister, who was two years younger than her- 
self. It is so natural, so almost inevitable, that 
even the most child-loving among us should find 
it difficult to realize constantly that a mite of 
three or four, tumbling about, playing with india- 
rubber dogs and with difficulty restrained from 
sucking the paint off Noah, Shem, Ham, and Ja- 
phet, not to mention the animals, is a person, and 
that this person is ten thousand times more sensi- 
tive to impression than one's self, and that hearing 
and seeing one, this person, though he or she may 
not really understand, will be likely, in intervals 
of innocent destruction of small portable articles, 
to search diligently in infant mental space until 



4 The One I Knew the Best of All 

he or she has found an explanation of affairs, to 
be pigeon-holed for future reference. And yet I 
can most solemnly declare that such was the 
earliest habit of that " One I knew the best of all." 

One takes a fat, comfortable little body on one's 
knee and begins to tell it a story about " a fairy ' 
or "a doggie " or "a pussy." And the moment 
the story begins the questions begin also. And 
with my recollection of the intense little Bogie 
whom I knew so well and who certainly must 
have been a most e very-day-looking little person- 
age, giving no outward warning of preternatural 
alertness and tragic earnestness, my memory leads 
me to think that indeed it is not a trifle to be suf- 
ficiently upright and intelligent to answer these 
questions exactly as one should. This first inci- 
dent, which seems to me to denote how early a 
tiny mind goes through distinct processes of 
thought, is a very clear memory to me. 

I see a comfortable English bedroom, such as 
would to-day seem old-fashioned without being 
ancient enough to be picturesque. I remember 
no articles of furniture in the room but a rather 
heavy four-posted carved mahogany bed, hung 
with crimson damask, ornamented with heavy 
fringe and big cords and tassels, a chair by this 
bedside I think it was an arm-chair covered 
with chintz and a footstool. This was called " a 
buffet," and rhymed with Miss Muffet eating her 



The One I Kneiv the Best of All 5 

curds and whey. In England Miss Muffet sat on 
" a buffet," on the blood-curdling occasion when 

" There came a big spider 
And sat down beside her 
And frightened Miss Muffet away." 

This buffet was placed upon the hearth-rug be- 
fore the fire, and a very small being was sitting 
upon it, very conscious, in a quiet way, of her 
mamma lying on the crimson-draped bed, and the; 
lady friend who was sitting in the chair by her, 
discussing their respective new babies. But most 
of all was the Small Person on the buffet conscious 
of their own personal new baby who was being 
taken care of by a nurse just near her. 

Perhaps the interest of such recollections is 
somewhat added to by the fact that one can only 
recall them by episodes, and that the episodes 
seem to appear without any future or any past. 
Not the faintest shadow of the new baby seems 
to appear upon the camera, up to this moment, 
of the buffet, and I have no remembrance of any 
mental process which led to the Small Person's 
wishing to hold it on her knee. Perhaps it was 
a sudden inspiration. 

But she did wish to hold it, and notified as 
much, apparently with sufficient clearness, to the 
nurse. 

The shadow of the nurse has no name and 



6 The One I Knew the Best of All 

no special individuality. She was only a figure 
known as " The Nurse." 

But she impresses me in these days as having 
been quite definite in her idea that Persons not 
yet three years old were not to be trusted en- 
tirely with the new-born, however excellent their 
intentions were. 

How the Small Person expressed herself in 
those days I do not know at all. Before three 
years articulation is not generally perfect, but if 
hers was not I know she was entirely unaware 
of her inadequacies. She thought she spoke just 
as other people did, and I never remember her 
pronunciation being corrected. I can recall, 
with perfect distinctness, however, what she 
tJwught she expressed and what her hearers 
seemed to understand her to say. 

It was in effect something like this : 

" I want to hold the New Baby on my knee. ' 

" You are too little," said the Nurse. 

" No, I am not too little. The New Baby is 
little, and I am on the buffet, and I will hold her 
tight if you will put her on my knee." 

" She would slip off, I am afraid." 

" No, I will hold her tight with both arms, just 
like you do. Please give her to me." And the 
Small Person spread her small knees. 

I don't know how long the discussion lasted, 
but the Nurse was a good-natured person, and at 



The One I Knew the Best of All 7 

last she knelt down upon the hearth-rug by the 
buffet, holding the white-robed new baby in her 
arms, and amiably pretended to place it in the 
short arms and on the tiny knees, while she was 
really supporting it herself. 

" There," she said. " Now she is on your 
knee." She thought she had made it all right, 
but she was gravely mistaken. 

" But I want to hold her myself!' said the Small 
Person. 

" You are holding her," answered the Nurse, 
cheerfully. " What a big girl to be holding the 
New Baby just like a grown-up lady." 

The Small Person looked at her with serious 
candor. 

" I am not holding her," she said. " You are 
holding her." 

That the episode ended without the Small Per- 
son either having held the New Baby, or being 
deceived into fancying she held it, is as clear a 
memory to me as if it had occurred yesterday ; 
and the point of the incident is that after all the 
years that have passed I remember with equal 
distinctness the thoughts which were in the Small 
Person's mind as she looked at the Nurse and 
summed the matter up, while the woman imag- 
ined she was a baby not capable of thinking at all. 

It has always interested me to recall this be- 
cause it was so long ago, and while it has not 



8 The One I Knew the Best of All 

faded out at all, and I see the mental attitude as 
definitely as I see the child and the four-post bed 
with its hangings, I recognize that she was too 







\ 



young to have had in her vocabulary the words 
to put her thoughts and mental arguments into- 
and yet they were there, as thoughts and mental 



The One I Knew the Best of All 9 

arguments are there to-day and after these many 
years I can write them in adult words without 
the slightest difficulty. I should like to have a 
picture of her eyes and the expression of her baby 
face as she looked at the nurse and thought these 
things, but perhaps her looks w^ere as inarticulate 
as her speech. 

" I am very little," she thought. " I am so little 
that you think I do not know that you are pre- 
tending that I am holding the new baby, while 
really it is you who are holding it. But I do know. 
I know it as well as you, though I am so little 
and you are so big that you always hold babies. 
But I cannot make you understand that, so it is 
no use talking. I want the baby, but you think I 
shalMet it fall. I am sure I shall not. But you 
are a grown-up person and I am a little child, and 
the big people can always have their own way." 

I do not remember any rebellion against an idea 
of injustice. All that comes back to me in the 
form of a mental attitude is a perfect realization 
of the immense fact that people who were grown 
up could do what they chose, and that there was 
no appeal against their omnipotence. 

It may be that this line of thought was an in- 
fant indication of a nature which developed later 
as one of its chief characteristics, a habit of ad- 
justing itself silently to the inevitable, which was 
frequently considered to represent indifference, 



io The One I Knew the Best of All 

but which merely evolved itself from private con- 
clusions arrived at through a private realization of 
the utter uselessness of struggle against the Fixed. 
The same curiosity as to the method in which 
the thoughts expressed themselves to the small 
mind devours me when I recall the remainder of 
the bedroom episode, or rather an incident of the 



same morning. 



The lady visitor who sat in the chair was a 
neighbor, and she also was the proprietor of a 
new baby, though her baby was a few weeks 
older than the very new one the Nurse held. 

She was the young mother of two or three 
children, and had a pretty sociable manner toward 
tiny things. The next thing I see is that the 
Small Person had been called up to her and stood 
by the bed in an attitude of modest decorum, be- 
ing questioned and talked to. 

I have no doubt she was asked how she liked 
the New Baby, but I do not remember that or 
anything but the serious situation which arose 
as the result of one of the questions. It was the 
first social difficulty of the Small Person the first 
confronting of the overwhelming problem of how 
to adjust perfect truth to perfect politeness. 

Language seems required to mentally confront 
this problem and try to settle it, and the Small 
Person cannot have had words, yet it is certain 
that she confronted and wrestled with it. 



The One I Knew the Best of All 1 1 

" And what is your New Baby's name to be ? " 
the lady asked. 

" Edith," was the answer. 

" That is a pretty name," said the lady. " I 
have a new baby, and I have called it Eleanor. 
Is not that a pretty name ? ' 

In this manner it was simple as it may seem- 
that the awful problem presented itself. That it 
seemed awful actually almost unbearable is an 
illustration of the strange, touching sensitiveness 
of the new-born butterfly soul just emerged from 
its chrysalis- -the impressionable sensitiveness 
which it seems so tragic that we do not always 
remember^ 

For some reason it would be impossible to tell 
what- -the Small Person did not think Eleanor 
was a pretty name. On strictly searching the in- 
nermost recesses of her diminutive mentality she 
found that she could not think it a pretty name. 
She tried, as if by muscular effort, and could not. 
She thought it was an ugly name ; that was the 
anguish of it. And here was a lady, a nice lady, a 
friend with whom her own mamma took tea, a 
kind lady, who had had the calamity to have her 
own newest baby christened by an ugly name. 
How could anyone be rude and hard-hearted 
enough to tell her what she had done that her 
new baby would always have to be called some- 
thing ugly ? She positively quaked with mis- 



12 The One I Knew the Best of All 

ery. She stood quite still and looked at the poor 
nice lady helplessly without speaking. The lady 
probably thought she was shy, or too little to 
answer readily or really have any opinion on the 
subject of names. Mistaken lady : how mistaken, 
I can remember. The Small Person was wres- 
tling with her first society problem, and trying to 
decide what she must do with it. 

" Don't you think it is a pretty name ? ' the 
visitor went on, in a petting, coaxing voice, pos- 
sibly with a view to encouraging her. " Don't 
you like it ? ' 

The Small Person looked at her with yearning 
eyes. She could not say " No ' blankly. Even 
then there lurked in her system the seeds of a 
feeling which, being founded on a friendly wish 
to be humane which is a virtue at the outset, 
has increased with years, until it has become a 
weakness which is a vice. She could not say a 
thing she did not mean, but she could not say 
brutally the unpleasant thing she did mean. She 
ended with a pathetic compromise. 

" I don't think," she faltered " I don't think 
it is as pretty as Edith." 

And then the grown-up people laughed gayly 
at her as if she were an amusing little thing, 
and she was kissed and cuddled and petted. 
And nobody suspected she had been thinking 
anything at all, any more than they imagined that 



The One I Knew the Best of All 13 

she had been translating their remarks into 
ancient Greek. I have a vivid imagination as 
regards children, but if I had been inventing a 
story of a child, it would not have occurred to 
me to imagine such a mental episode in such a 
very tiny person. But the vividness of my recol- 
lection of this thing has been a source of interest 
and amusement to me through so many mature 
years that I feel it has a certain significance as 
impressing upon one's mind a usually unrealized 
fact. 

When she was about four years old a strange 
and serious event happened in the household 
of the Small Person, an event which might have 
made a deep and awesome impression on her 
but for two facts. As it was, a deep impression 
was made, but its effect was not of awfulness, but 
of unexplainable mystery. The thing which hap- 
pened was that the father of the Small Person 
died. As she belonged to the period of Nurses 
and the Nursery she did not feel very familiar 
with him, and did not see him very often. 
" Papa," in her mind, was represented by a gentle- 
man who had curling brown hair and who laughed 
and said affectionately funny things. These things 
gave her the impression of his being a most agree- 
able relative, but she did not know that the funny 
things were the jocular remarks with which good- 
natured maturity generally salutes tender years. 



14 The One I Knew the Best of All 

He was intimately connected with jokes about 
cakes kept in the dining-room sideboard, and with 
amiable witticisms about certain very tiny glasses 
of sherry in which she and her brothers had drunk 
his health and her mamma's, standing by the table 
after dinner, when there were nuts and other 
fruits adorning it. These tiny glasses, which 
must really have been liqueur glasses, she thought 
had been made specially small for the accommo- 
dation of persons from the Nursery. 

When " papa " became ill the Nursery was evi- 
dently kept kindly and wisely in ignorance of his 
danger. The Small Person's first knowledge of 
it seemed to reach her through an interesting ad- 
venture. She and her brothers and the New 
Baby, who by this time was quite an old baby, 
were taken away from home. In a very pretty 
countrified Public Park not far away from where 
she lived there was a house where people could 
stay and be made comfortable. The Park still ex- 
ists, but I think the house has been added to and 
made into a museum. At that time it appeared 
to an infant imagination a very splendid and awe- 
inspiring mansion. It seemed very wonderful 
indeed to live in a house in the Park where 
one was only admitted usually under the care of 
Nurses who took one to walk. The park seemed 
to become one's own private garden, the Refresh- 
ment Room containing the buns almost part of 



The One I Knew the Best of All 15 

one's private establishment, and the Policemen, 
after one's first awe of them was modified, to be- 
come almost mortal men. 

It was a Policeman who is the chief feature of 
this period. He must have been an amiable Police- 
man. I have no doubt he was quite a fatherly 
Policeman, but the agonies of terror the One I 
knew the best of all passed through in conse- 
quence of his disposition to treat her as a joke, 
are something never to be forgotten. 

I can see now from afar that she was a little 
person of the most law-abiding tendencies. I can 
never remember her feeling the slightest inclina- 
tion to break a known law of any kind. Her in- 
ward desire was to be a good child. Without 
actually formulating the idea, she had a standard 
of her own. She did not want to be " naughty," 
she did not want to be scolded, she was peace- 
loving and pleasure-loving, two things not com- 
patible with insubordination. When she was 
" naughty," it was because what seemed to her in- 
justice and outrage roused her to fury. She had 
occasional furies, but went no further. 

When she was told that there were pieces of 
grass on which she must not walk, and that on 
the little boards adorning their borders the black 
letters written said, " Trespassers will be prose- 
cuted," she would not for worlds have set her 
foot upon the green, even though she did not 



1 6 The One I Knew the Best of All 

know what u prosecuted ' meant. But when she 
discovered that the Park Policemen who walked 
up and down in stately solitude were placed by 
certain awful authorities to " take up ' anybody 
who trespassed, the dread that she might inadver- 
tently trespass some day and be " taken up ' 
caused her blood to turn cold. 

What an irate Policeman, rendered furious by 
an outraged law, represented to her tender mind 
I cannot quite clearly define, but I am certain that 
a Policeman seemed an omnipotent power, Avith 
whom the boldest would not dream of trifling, 
and the sole object of whose majestic existence 
was to bring to swift, unerring justice the juve- 
nile law-breakers who in the madness of their 
youth drew upon themselves the eagle glance of 
his wrath, the awful punishment of justice being 
to be torn shrieking from one's Mamma and in- 
carcerated for life in a gloomy dungeon in the 
bowels of the earth. This was what " Prison ' 
and being " taken up" meant. 

It may be imagined, then, with what reverent 
awe she regarded this supernatural being from 
afar, clinging to her Nurse's skirts with positively 
bated breath when he appeared ; how ostenta- 
tiously she avoided the grass which must not be 
trodden upon ; how she was filled with mingled 
terror and gratitude when she discovered that he 

o 

even descended from his celestial heights to speak 



The One I Knew the Best of All 17 

to Nurses, actually in a jocular manner and with 
no air of secreting an intention of pouncing upon 
their charges and " taking them up ' in the very 
wantonness of power. 

I do not know through what means she reached 
the point of being sufficiently intimate with a 
Policeman to exchange respectful greetings with 
him and even to indulge in timorous conversation. 
The process must have been a very gradual one 
and much assisted by friendly and mild advances 
from the Policeman himself. I only know it came 
about, and this I know through a recollection of 
a certain eventful morning. 

It was a beautiful morning, so beautiful that 
even a Policeman might have been softened by 
it. The grass which must not be walked upon 
was freshest green, the beds of flowers upon 
it were all in bloom. Perhaps the brightness of 
the sunshine and the friendliness of nature em- 
boldened the Small Person and gave her giant 
strength. 

How she got there I do not know, but she was 
sitting on one of the Park benches at the edge of 
the grass, and a Policeman a real, august Police- 
man was sitting beside her. 

Perhaps her Nurse had put her there for a mo- 
ment and left her under the friendly official's care. 
But I do not know. I only know she was there, 
and so was he, and he was doing nothing alarm- 

2 



1 8 The One I Knew the Best of All 

ing. The seat was one of those which have only 
one piece of wood for a back and she was so little 
that her short legs stuck out straight before her, 
confronting her with short socks and plump pink 
calf and small " ankle-strap ' shoes, while her 
head was not high enough to rest itself against 
the back, even if it had wished to. 

It was this last fact which suggested to her 
mind the possibility of a catastrophe so harrow- 
ing that mere mental anguish forced her to ask 
questions even from a minion of the law. She 
looked at him and opened her lips half a dozen 
times before she dared to speak, but the words 
came forth at last : 

" If anyone treads on the grass must you take 
them up ? ' 

" Yes, I must." There is no doubt but that the 
innocent fellow thought her and her question a 
good joke. 

" Would you have to take anyone up if they 
went on the grass ? ' 

" Yes," with an air of much official sternness. 
"Anyone" 

She panted a little and looked at him appeal- 
ingly. " Would you have to take me up if I went 
on it ? ' Possibly she hoped for leniency because 
he evidently did not object to her Nurse, and she 
felt that such relationship might have a softening 
influence. 



The One I Knew the Best of All 19 

" Yes," he said, " I should have to take you to 
prison." 

" But," she faltered, " but if I couldn't help it- 
if I didn't go on it on purpose." 

" You'd have to be taken to prison if you went 
on it," he said. " You couldn't go on it without 
knowing it." 

She turned and looked at the back of the seat, 
which was too high for her head to reach, and 
which consequently left no support behind her 
exceeding smallness. 

" But but," she said, " I am so little I might 
fall through the back of this seat. If I was to fall 
through on to the grass should you take me to 
prison ? ' 

What dulness of his kindly nature I feel sure 
he was not an unkindly fellow blinded the 
Policeman to the terror and consternation which 
must in some degree have expressed themselves 
on her tiny face, I do not understand, but he 
evidently saw nothing of them. I do not remem- 
ber what his face looked like, only that it did not 
wear the ferocity which would have accorded 
with his awful words. 

" Yes," he said, " I should have to pick you up 
and carry you at once to prison." 

She must have turned pale ; but that she sat 
still without further comment, that she did not 
burst into frantic howls of despair, causes one to 



2O The One I Knew the Best of All 



feel that even in those early days she was 
governed by some rudimentary sense of dignity 
and resignation to fate, for as she sat there, the 
short legs in socks and 
small black " ankle-straps " 
confronting her, the mar- 
row \vas dissolving in her 
infant bones. 

There is doubtless 
suggestion as to the 
limits and exag- 
gerations of the 




tender mind in the fact that this incident was an 
awful one to her and caused her to waken in 
her bed at night and quake with horror, while 



The One I Knew the Best of All 21 

the later episode of her hearing that " Poor Papa ' 
had died seemed only to be a thing- of mystery of 
which there was so little explanation that it was 
not terrible. This was without doubt because, to 
a very young child's mind, death is an idea too 
vague to grasp. 

There came a day when someone carried her 
into the bedroom where the crimson-draped four- 
post bed was, and standing by its side held her in 
her arms that she might look down at Papa lying 
quite still upon the pillow. She only thought he 
looked as if he were asleep, though someone said : 
" Papa has gone to Heaven," and she was not 
frightened, and looked down with quiet interest 
and respect. A few years later the sight of a 
child of her own age or near it, lying in his coffin, 
brought to her young being an awed realization 
of death, whose anguished intensity has never 
wholly repeated itself ; but being held up in kind 
arms to look down at " Poor Papa," she only 
gazed without comprehension and without fear. 



CHAPTER II 

The Little Flower Book and the Brown Testament 

I DO not remember the process by which she 
learned to read or how long a time it took her. 
There was a time when she sat on a buffet before 
the Nursery fire which was guarded by a tall 
wire fender with a brass top and with the as- 
sistance of an accomplished elder brother a few 
years her senior, seriously and carefully picked 
out with a short, fat finger the capital letters 
adorning the advertisement column of a news- 

C3 

paper. 

But from this time my memory makes a leap 
over all detail until an occasion when she stood 
by her Grandmamma's knee by this same tall 
Nursery fender and read out slowly and with 
dignity the first verse of the second chapter of 
Matthew in a short, broad, little speckled brown 
Testament with large print. 

" When Jesus- -was born in Bethlehem- 
of Judea," she read, but it is only this first verse I 
remember. 

Either just before or just after the accomplish- 
ing of this feat she heard that she was three years 



T/ie Flower Book and Testament 23 

old. Possibly this fact was mentioned as notable 
in connection with the reading, but to her it was a 
fact notable principally because it was the first 




time she remembered hearing that she was any 
age at all and that birthdays were a feature of 
human existence. 

But though the culminating point of the learn- 



24 The One I Knew the Best of All 

ing to read was the Brown Testament, the process 
of acquiring 1 the accomplishment must have had 
much to do with the " Little Flower Book." 

In a life founded and formed upon books, one 
naturally looks back with affection to the first 
book one possessed. The one known as the " Lit- 
tle Flower Book' was the first in the existence of 
the One I knew the best of all. 

No other book ever had such fascinations, none 
ever contained such marvellous suggestions of 
beauty and story and adventure. And yet it was 
only a little book out of which one learned one's 
alphabet. 

But it was so beautiful. One could sit on a buf- 
fet and pore over the pages of it for hours and 
thrill with wonder and delight over the little pict- 
ure which illustrated the fact that A stood for 
Apple-blossom, C for Carnation, and R for Rose. 
What would I not give to see those pictures now. 
But I could not see them now as the Small Person 
saw them then. I only wish I could. Such 
lovely pictures ! So like real flowers ! As one 
looked at each one of them there grew before 
one's eyes the whole garden that surrounded it- 
the very astral body of the beauty of it. 

It was rather like the Brown Testament in form. 
It was short and broad, and its type was large 
and clear. The short page was divided in two ; 
the upper half was filled with an oblong black 



The Flower Book and Testament 25 

background, on which there was a flower, and the 
lower half with four lines of rhyme beginning 
with the letter which was the one that " stood 
for " the flower. The black background was an 
inspiration, it made the flower so beautiful. I do 
not remember any of the rhymes, though I have a 
vague impression that they usually treated of 
some moral attribute which the flower was sup- 
posed to figuratively represent. In the days when 
the Small Person was a child, morals were never 
lost sight of ; no well-regulated person ever men- 
tioned the Poppy, in writing for youth, without 
calling it "flaunting 5 or " gaudy;' the Violet, 
without laying stress on its " modesty ; " the Rose, 
without calling attention to its " sweetness," and 
daring indeed would have been the individual 
who would have referred to the Bee without call- 
ing him " busy." Somehow one had the feeling 
that the Poppy was deliberately scarlet from im- 
pudence, that the Violet stayed up all night, as it 
were, to be modest, that the Rose had invented 
her own sweetness, and that the Bee would rather 
perish than be an "idle butterfly" and not spend 
every moment " improving each shining hour." 
But we stood it very well. Nobody repined, but 
I think one rather had a feeling of having been 
born an innately vicious little person who needed 
laboring with constantly that one might be made 
merely endurable. 



26 The One I Knew the Best of All 

It never for an instant occurred to the Small 
Person to resent the moral attributes of the flow- 
ers. She was quite resigned to them, though my 
impression is that she dwelt on them less fondly 
than on the fact that the rose and her alphabetical 
companions were such visions of beauty against 
their oblong background of black. 

The appearing of the Flower Book on the hori- 
zon was an event in itself. Somehow the Small 
Person had become devoured by a desire to pos- 
sess a book and know how to read it. She was 
the fortunate owner of a delightful and ideal 
Grandmamma not a modern grandmamma, but 
one who might be called a comparatively " early 
English ' grandmamma. She was stately but 
benevolent ; she had silver-white hair, wore a cap 
with a full white net border, and carried in her 
pocket an antique silver snuff-box, not used as a 
snuff-box, but as a receptacle for what was known 
in that locality as " sweeties," one of which being 
bestowed with ceremony was regarded as a re- 
ward for all nursery virtues and a panacea for all 
earthly ills. She was bounteous and sympathetic, 
and desires might hopefully be confided to her. 
Perhaps this very early craving for literature 
amused her, perhaps it puzzled her a little. I re- 
member that a suggestion was tentatively made 
by her that perhaps a doll would finally be found 
preferable to a book, but it was strenuously de- 



The Flower Book and Testament 27 

clared by the Small Person that a book, and only 
a book, would satisfy her impassioned cravings. 
A curious feature of the matter is that, though 
dolls at a later period were the joy and the 
greater part of the existence of the Small Person, 
during her very early years I have absolutely no 
recollection of a feeling for any doll, or indeed a 
memory of any dolls existing for her. 

So she was taken herself to buy the book. It 
was a beautiful and solemn pilgrimage. Reason 
suggests that it was not a long one, in considera- 
tion for her tiny and brief legs, but to her it 
seemed to be a journey of great length princi- 
pally past wastes of suburban brick-fields, which 
for some reason seemed romantic and interesting 
to her, and it ended in a tiny shop on a sort of 
country road. I do not see the inside of the shop, 
only the outside, which had one small window, 
with toys and sweet things in glass jars. Per- 
haps the Small Person was left outside to survey 
these glories. This would seem not improbable, 
as there remains no memory of the interior. But 
there the Flower Book was bought (I wonder if 
it really cost more than sixpence) ; from there it 
was carried home under her arm, I feel sure. 
Where it went to, or how it disappeared, I do not 
know. For an ason it seemed to her to be the 
greater part of her life, and then it melted away, 
perhaps being absorbed in the Brown Testament 



28 The One I Knew the Best of All 

and the more dramatic interest of Herod and the 
Innocents. From her introduction to Herod 
dated her first acquaintance with the " villain " in 
drama and romance, and her opinion of his con- 
duct was, I am convinced, founded on something 
much larger than mere personal feeling. 



CHAPTER III 

The Back Garden of Eden 

I DO not know with any exactness where it 
was situated. To-day I believe it is a place swept 
out of existence. In those days I imagine it was 
a comfortable, countrified house, with a big gar- 
den round it, and fields and trees before and be- 
hind it ; but if I were to describe it and its re- 
sources and surroundings as they appeared to me 
in the enchanted days when I lived there, I should 
describe a sort of fairyland. 

If one could only make a picture of the places 
of the world as these Small Persons see them, 
with their wondrous proportions and beauties- 
the great heights and depths and masses, the gar- 
den-walks which seem like stately avenues, the 
rose-bushes which are jungles of bloom, the trees 
adventurous brothers climb up and whose top- 
most branches seem to lift them to the sky. 
There was such a tree at the bottom of the gar- 
den at Seedly. To the Small Person the garden 
seemed a mile long. There was a Front Garden 
and a Back Garden, and it was the Back Garden 
she liked best and which appeared to her large 



30 The One I Knew the Best of All 

enough for all one's world. It was all her world 
during the years she spent there. The Front 
Garden had a little lawn with flower-beds on it 
and a gravel walk surrounding it and leading to 
the Back Garden. The interesting feature of this 
domain was a wide flower-bed which curved 
round it and represented to the Small Person a 
stately jungle. It was filled with flowering shrubs 
and trees which bloomed, and one could walk be- 
side them and look through the tangle of their 
branches and stems and imagine the things which 
might live among them and be concealed in their 
shadow. There were rose-bushes and lilac-bushes 
and rhododendrons, and there were laburnums 
and snowballs. Elephants and tigers might have 
lurked there, and there might have been fairies or 
gypsies, though I clo not think her mind formu- 
lated distinctly anything more than an interesting 
suggestion of possibilities. 

But the Back Garden was full of beautiful won- 
ders. Was it always Spring or Summer there in 
that enchanted Garden which, out of a whole 
world, has remained throughout a lifetime the 
Garden of Eden ? Was the sun always shining ? 
Later and more material experience of the Eng- 
lish climate leads me to imagine that it was not 
always flooded and warmed with sunshine, and 
filled with the scent of roses and mignonette and 
new-mown hay and apple-blossoms and strawber- 



The Back Garden of Eden 31 

ries all together, and that when one laid down on 
the grass on one's back one could not always see 
that high, high world of deep sweet blue with 
fleecy islets and mountains of snow drifting slowly 
by or seeming to be quite still that world to 
which one seemed somehow to belong even more 
than to the earth, and which drew one upward 
with such visions of running over the white soft 
hills and springing, from little island to little 
island, across the depths of blue which seemed a 
sea. But it was always so on the days the One I 
knew the best of all remembers the garden. This 
is no doubt because, on the wet days and the windy 
ones, the cold days and the ugly ones, she was 
kept in the warm nursery and did not see the 
altered scene at all. 

In the days in which she played out of doors 
there were roses in bloom, and a score of wonder- 
ful annuals, and bushes with gooseberries and red 
and white and black currants, and raspberries 
and strawberries, and there was a mysterious and 
endless seeming alley of Sweetbriar, w r hich smelt 
delicious when one touched the leaves and which 
sometimes had a marvellous development in the 
shape of red berries upon it. How is it that the 
warm, scented alley of Sweetbriar seems to lead 
her to an acquaintance, an intimate and friendly 
acquaintance, with the Rimmers's pigs, and some- 
how through them to the first Crime of her infancy ? 



32 The One I Knew the Best of All 

The Rimmers were some country working- 
people whose white-washed cottage was near the 
Back Garden. Rimmer himself was a market 
gardener, and in his professional capacity had 
some connection with the Back Garden itself and 
also with the gardener. The cottage was very 
quaint and rural, and its garden, wherein cab- 
bages and currant-bushes and lettuces, etc., grew 
luxuriantly, was very long and narrow, and one 
of its fascinating features was the pig-sty. 

A pig-sty does not seem fascinating to mature 
years, but to Six-years-old, looking through an 
opening in a garden hedge and making the ac- 
quaintance of a little girl pig-owner on the other 
side, one who knows all about pigs and their 
peculiarities, it becomes an interesting object. 

Not having known the pig in his domestic 
circles, as it were, and then to be introduced to 
him in his own home, surrounded bv Mrs. Pisr and 

J O 

a family of little Pink Pigs, squealing and hustling 
each other, and being rude over their dinner in 
the trough, is a situation full of suggestion. 

The sty is really like a little house. What is Mr. 
Pig thinking of as he lies with his head half-way 
out of the door, blinking in the sun, and seeming 
to converse with his family in grunts? What do 
the Brunts mean ? Do the little Pink Pi^s under- 

o o 

stand them ? Does Mrs. Pig really reply when she 
seems to ? Do they really like potato and apple 



The Back Garden of Eden ^ 

j \j \j 

parings, and all sorts of things jumbled together 
with buttermilk and poured into the trough? 

The little girl whose father owns the pigs is 
very gifted. She seems to know everything about 
the family in the sty. One may well cherish an 
acquaintance with a person of such knowledge 
and experience. 

One is allowed to talk to this little girl. Her 
name is Emma Rimmer. Her father and mother 
are decent people, and she is a well-behaved little 
girl. There is a little girl whose mother keeps the 
toll-gate on the road, and it is not permitted that 
one should converse with her. She is said to be 
" a rude little girl," and is tabooed. 

But with Emma Rimmer it is different. She 
wears a print frock and clogs, and speaks in the 
Lancashire dialect, but there seems to be no seri- 
ous objection to occasional conversation with her. 
At some time the Small Person must have been 
taken into the narrow garden, because of a remem- 
brance of luxuries there revealed. A yard or so 
from the door of the cottage there was a small 
wooden shed, with a slanting roof protecting a 
sort of table or counter, with toothsome delicacies 
spread upon it for sale. 

They were refreshments of the sort which the 
working -classes patronize during their Sunday 
w T alks into the country. Most of them are pur- 
chasable for one penny, or one halfpenny, in coin 
3 



34 The One I Kneiv the Best of All 

of the realm. Pieces of cardboard in the cottage 

o 

window announce : 



' Pop. A penny a bottle. 
Ginger beer 
Sold here. 
Also Nettle beer." 



On the stall there are " Real Eccles Cakes. 
One penny each." " Parkins. A halfpenny." 
There are glass bottles with " Raspberry Drops' 
in them, and " Bulls Eyes," and " Humbugs ' 
-beautiful striped sticky things which taste 
strongly of peppermint. If one is capitalist 
enough to possess a halfpenny, one can spend 
half an hour in trying to decide what luxury to 
invest it in. 

There was in those days in the air a rumor 
for which Emma Rimmer was responsible a sort 
of legend repeated with bated breath and not re- 
garded with entire confidence of a female Monte 
Christo of tender years, who once had spent a 
whole sixpence at a time. But no one saw her. 
She was never traced and could not have be- 
longed to the neighborhood. Indeed there was 
an impression in the Small Person's mind that 
she was somehow connected with someone who 
worked in factories perhaps was a little factory 
girl herself. No \vell-regulated little girl, with a 



The Back Garden of Eden 35 

nurse's eye upon her, would have been permitted 
to indulge in such reckless, even vulgar, extrava- 
gance. 

Through the nearness of these temptations 
Crime came. The Serpent entered the Back 
Garden of Eden. The Serpent was innocent lit- 
tle Emma Rimmer. 

There was a day on which the Small Person 
was playing with Emma Rimmer. Perhaps the 
air was sharp and hunger-creating, perhaps she 
had not eaten all her bowl of bread-and-milk at 
her Nursery breakfast that morning. Somehow 
she was not in the Back Garden, but in the road 
outside the big gates which opened into the car- 
riage-way. Why she was without her Nurse is 
not explained. She seemed to be jumping about 
and running in a circle with Emma Rimmer, and 
she became suddenly conscious of a gnawing 
sense of vacancy under the belt of her pinafore. 
" I am so hungry," she said ; " I am so hungry." 
Emma looked at her and then continued to jump 
up and down. 

Something unusual must have been in the situ- 
ation, because there seemed to be none of the 
usual methods to fall back upon in the way of 
going in search of bread-and-butter. 

"I wish I had a halfpenny," she continued. " If 
I had a halfpenny I would get you to go to your 
cottage and get me a halfpenny parkin." A parkin 



36 The One I Knew the Best of All 

is a spicy thing- made of molasses and oatmeal 
and flavored with ginger. It can only be found 
in Lancashire and Yorkshire. 

Emma stopped jumping and looked sharply re- 
flective. Familiarity with commerce had ren- 
dered her daring. 

" Why does'na tha' go an' get a parkin on 
trust? " she said. " My mother 'd trust thee for a 
ha'p'ny." 

" Ah ! " gasped the Small Person. 

The boldness of the suggestion overwhelmed 
her. She had never dreamed of the possibility of 
such a thing. 

" Aye, she would," said Emma. " Tha' could 
just get thy parkin an' pay next toime tha' had a 
ha'p'ny. A moit o' people does that way. I'll go 
an' ax Mother fur thee now." 

The scheme seemed so gigantic, so far from re- 
spectable, so fraught with peril. Suppose that 
one got a parkin " on trust," and never got a half- 
penny, and one's family were consequently in- 
volved in eternal dishonor and disaster. 

" Mamma would be angry," she said ; " she 
would not let me do it." 

" Tha' needn't say nowt about it," said Emma. 

This was not actual duplicity, I am convinced. 
Her stolid rusticity retained its red cheeks like 
rosy apples, and she hopped about like a cheerful 
sparrow. 



The Back Garden of Eden 



37 



It was doubtless this serene and matter-of-fact 
unconsciousness of any serious aspect of the mat- 
ter which had its effect upon the Small Person. 






\ 

&e- #r>,i ' .iv' ! 








There is no knowing how long the discussion 
lasted, or in what manner she was finally per- 
suaded by prosaic, practical argument that to 
make an investment " on trust' was an every- 



38 The One I Knew the Best of All 

day commercial affair. The end of the matter 
was that stress of the moment prevailed and 
Emma went for the parkin. 

But the way of the infant transgressor is hard. 
The sense of proportion is as exaggerated in re- 
gard to mental as to physical objects. As lilac 
and rhododendron bushes form jungles, and trees 
reach the sky, so a nursery law defied assumes the 
stature of a crime, and surrounds itself with hor- 
ror. I do not think there is a defalcator, an ab- 
sconding bank president, a criminal of any de- 
gree, who is beset by such a monster of remorse 
as beset the Small Person, when her guilt was 
so far an accomplished fact that the brown and 
sticky cake was in her hand. 

/ 

The incident is nothing, but its effect, in its il- 
lustration of the dimensions facts assume to the 
contemplative mind of tender years, has its inter- 
est. She could not eat the " parkin." Her soul 
revolted against it after the first bite. She could 
not return it to Mrs. Rimmer with a semicircular 
piece taken out of its roundness, and the marks of 
small, sharp teeth on the edge. In a situation 
so fraught with agony and so clouded with in- 
famy she could confide in no one. I have never 
murdered anyone and had the body of my victim 
to conceal from the public eye, but I know how 
a murderer suffering from this inconvenience 
feels. The brown, sticky cake with the semicir- 



The Back Garden of Eden 39 

cular bite taken out of it, was as awful and as 
difficult to manage. To dispose of it involved 
creeping about on tiptoe, with beating heart and 
reeling brain. It involved looking stealthily for 
places where evidences of crime might be con- 
cealed. Why the Small Person hit on a specially 
candid shelf in a cupboard in an undisguised side- 
board in the dining-room, as a good place, it 
would be difficult to say. I comfort myself by 
saying that this indicated that she was naturally 
unfitted for crime and underhanded ways, and 
was not the least clever in stealth. 

How she separated from her partner in iniquity 
I do not remember. My chief memory is of the 
awful days and nights which followed. How 
many were there? She thought a thousand it is 
probable there were two or three. 

She was an infant Eugene Aram, and the body 
of her victim was mouldering in the very house 
with her. Her anguish, however, did not arise 
from a fear of punishment. Her Mamma was not 
severe, her Nurses were not allowed to slap her. 
It was a mental affair altogether. She felt that 
she had disgraced her family. She had brought 
ignominy and dishonor upon her dearest rela- 
tives. She was very fond of her relatives, and 
her conception of their moral and mental altitude 
was high. Her Mamma was a lady, and her little 
daughter had gone and bought a halfpenny par- 



4O The One I Knew the Best of All 

kin " on trust." She would have felt it not the 
least an undue thing if a thunderbolt had struck 
her dead in the Back Garden. It was no longer 
the Back Garden of Eden. A degraded criminal 
denied it with her presence. 

And the Body was mouldering in the side- 
board, on the second shelf in the little cupboard. 

I think she would have faded away and perished 
with the parkin, as witch-stricken victims perish 
with the waxen figure which melts but there 
came relief. 

She had two brothers older than herself, and so 
to be revered, as representing experience and the 
powerful mind of masculinity. (Being an English 
little girl she knew the vast superiority of the 
Male.) The younger of the two was a combative 
little fellow with curly hair, a belted-in round- 
about, a broad white collar, and two broad white 
front teeth. As she was only a girl, he despised 
her in a fraternal British way, but as she was his 
sister he had a kind of affection for her, which ex- 
pressed itself in occasional acts of friendly pat- 
ronage. He was perhaps seven or eight years old. 

In some moment of severest stress of anguish 
she confessed herself to him. It is so long ago 
that I cannot describe the manner or the occasion. 
I can only remember the magnificence of his con- 
duct. He must have been a good-natured little 
fellow, and he certainly had a lordly sense of the 



The Back Garden of Eden 



family dignity, even as represented or misrep- 
resented by a girl. 

That he berated her roundly it is not unlikely, 
but his points of 
view concerning 
the crime were not 
a s disproportion- 
ately exalted as her 
own. His mascu- 
line vigor would 
not permit her to 
be utterly crushed, 
or the family hon- 
or lost. He was a 
Man and a Capi- 
talist, as well as a 
Man and a Brother. 
He had a penny of 
his own, he had al- 
so a noble and Na- 
poleonic nature. He went to the cottage of Mrs. 
Rimmer (to his greater maturity was accorded 
the freedom of leaving the garden unaccompanied 
by a nurse) and paid for the parkin. So the blot 
was erased from the escutcheon, so the criminal, 
though still feeling herself stained with crime, 
breathed again. 

She had already begun to have a sort of literary 
imagination, and it must in some way have been 




42 The One I Knew tke Best of All 

already fed with some stories of heroic and noble 
little boys whose conduct was to be emulated and 
admired. I argue this from the fact that she 
mentally and reverently compared him to a boy 
in a book. What book I cannot say, and I am not 
sure that she could have said herself, but at that 
time he figured in her imagination as a creature too 
noble to be anything but a creation of literature- 
the kind of boy who would refuse to steal apples, 
and invariably gave his plum-cake to beggars or 
hungry dogs. 

But there was a feature of the melting away 
of this episode which was always a mystery to 
her. Her Mamma knew all, so did her Grand- 
mamma, so did the Nurses, and yet she was not 
treated as an outcast. Nobody scolded her, no- 
body reviled her, nobody seemed to be afraid to 
leave her with the Baby, for fear she might de- 
stroy it in some mad outburst of her evil in- 
stincts. This seemed inexplicable. If she had 
been branded on the brow, and henceforth kept 
under the custody of a strong escort of police- 
men, she would not have been surprised. And 
yet she was allowed to eat her breakfast bowl of 
bread-and-milk at the Nursery table with innocent 
children, and to play in the Back Garden as if her 
presence would not blight the gooseberries, and 
the red currants would not shrivel beneath her 
evil eye. 



The Back Garden of Eden 43 

My opinion is that, hearing the story from the 
Capitalist in the roundabout, her Mamma and her 
Grandmamma were privately immensely amused, 
and felt it more discreet to preserve a dignified 
silence. But that she was not swept from the 
earth as she deserved, did not cause her to regard 
her crime as less. She only felt the wonderful- 
ness of mercy as embodied in one's Grandmamma 
and one's Mamma. 



CHAPTER IV. 

Literature and tJie Doll. 

WHETHER as impression-creating and mind- 
moulding influences, Literature or the Doll came 
first into her life it would be most difficult to 
decide. But remembering the role the Doll 
played, and wherein its fascination lay, I see that 
its way must have been paved for it in some 
rudimentary manner by Literature, though their 
clearly remembered existences seem to have be- 
gun at one and the same time. Before the advent 
of literary influence I remember no Doll, and, 
curiously enough, there is, before the advent of 
the Doll, a memory of something like stories- 
imperfect, unsatisfactory, filling her with vague, 
restless craving for greater completeness of form, 
but still creating images for her, and setting her 
small mind at work. 

It is not in the least likely she did not own 
dolls before she owned books, but it is certain 
that until literature assisted imagination and gave 
them character, they seemed only things stuffed 
with sawdust and made no special impression. 

It is also certain that she cannot have been told 



Literature and the Doll 45 

stories as a rule. I should say that she did not 
hear them even as the exception. I am sure of 
this because I so well recollect her desperate 
efforts to wring- detail of any sort from her 
nurses. 

The " Slaughter of the Innocents " seems to me 
to have been the first story impression in her life. 
A little illustrated scripture history afforded a 
picture of Jewish mothers rushing madly down 
broad stone stairways clasping babies to their 
breasts, of others huddling under the shadow of 
high walls clutching their little ones, and of fierce 
armed men slashing with swords. 

This was the work of Herod the King. And 

o 

" In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation 
and weeping, and great mourning. Rachel weep- 
ing for her children, and would not be comfort- 
ed, because they were not." 

This was the first story, and it was a tragedy- 
only made endurable by that story of the Star in 
the East which led the way to the Manger where 

J O 

the little Child lay sleeping with a light about his 
head the little Child before whom the wise men 
bent, worshipping and offering gifts of frankin- 
cense and myrrh. She wondered greatly what 
frankincense and myrrh were, but the wise men 
were beautiful to her, and she could see quite 
clearly the high deep dome of blue which vaulted 
the still plain where the Shepherds watched their 



46 The One I Knew the Best of All 
Hocks at niirht, when the angel of the Lord came 

o o 

to them and glory shone round about and they 
were " sore afraid," until the angel said unto 
them, " Fear not, for behold, I bring you good 
tidings of great joy." 

This part of the story was strange and majestic 
and lovely, and almost consoled her for Herod 
the King. 

The Nurse who was the unconscious means of 
suggesting to her the first romance of her life, 
must have been a dull person. Even at this dis- 
tance I find myself looking back at her vague, 
stupid personality with a sense of impatience. 

How could a person learn a couple of verses of 
a song suggesting a story, and not only neglect to 
learn more, but neglect to inquire about the story 

itself? 

And oh, the helpless torture of hearing those 
odd verses and standing by that phlegmatic per- 
son's knee with one's yearning eyes fixed on her 
incomprehensible countenance, finding one's self 
unable to extort from her by any cross-examina- 
tion the details ! 

Even the stray verses had such wonderful sug- 
gestion in them. They opened up such vistas. 
At that time the Small Person faithfully believed 
the song- to be called " Sweet Alice Benbolt ' 

O 

Miss Alice Benbolt being, as she supposed, the 
name of the young lady described in the lines. 



Literature and the Doll 47 

She was a very sensitive young" lady, it appeared, 
from the description given in the first verse : 

" Ah, don't you remember Sweet Alice Benbolt, 

Sweet Alice with hair so brown, 

How she wept with delight when you gave her a smile, 
And trembled with fear at your frown ? ' 

It did not then occur to the Small Person that 
Miss Benbolt must have been trying in the do- 
mestic circle ; she was so moved by the tender- 
image of a brown-haired girl who was called 
" Sweet Alice" and set to plaintive music. Some- 
how there was something touching in the way she 
was spoken of as if people had loved her and 
were sorry about her for some reason the boys 
who had gone to the school-house " under the 
hill," connected with which there seemed to be 
such pathetic memories, though the Small Person 
could not comprehend why they were pathetic. 
But there was a pathos in one verse which broke 
her heart when she understood it, which she 
scarcely did at first. 

" In the little churchyard in the valley Benbolt, 

In a corner obscure and alone, 
They have fitted a slab of the granite so gray, 
And Sweet Alice lies under the stone." 

" Why does she lie there?' she asked, "with 
both hands on the Nurse's knee. " Why does 
Sweet Alice lie under the stone ? " 



48 The One I Knew the Best of All 

44 Because she died," said the Nurse, without 
emotional compunctions, " and was buried there." 

The Small Person clung rather helplessly to her 
apron. 

" Sweet Alice," she said, " Sweet Alice with hair 
so brown?' 

(Why was the brown hair pathetic as well as the 
name ? I don't know. But it was.) 

" Why did she die ? " she asked. " What did 
she die for ? ' 

" I don't know," said the Nurse. 

" But but tell me some more," the Small 
Person gasped. " Sing some more." 

" I don't know any more." 

" But where did the boys go ? ' 

" I don't know." 

" What did the schoolmaster do ?' 

" The song doesn't tell." 

" Why was he grim ? ' 

" It doesn't tell that either." 

" Did Sweet Alice go to school to him ? ' 

u I dare say." 

" Was he sorry when she died ? ' 

" It does not say." 

" Are there no more verses? ' 

" I can't remember any more." 

Questioning was of no use. She did not know 
any more and she did not care. One might im- 
plore and try to suggest, but she was not an 



Literature and the Doll 49 

imaginative character, and so the Small Person 

o 

was left to gaze at her with hungry eyes and a 
sense of despair before this stolid being, who 
DiigJit have known the rest and would not. She 
probably made the woman's life a burden to her 
by imploring her to sing again and again the stray 
verses, and I have no doubt that at each repetition 
she invented new questions. 

" Sweet Alice Benbolt," she used to say to her- 
self. " Sweet Alice with hair so brown." And 
the words always called up in her mind a picture 
which is as clear to-day as it was then. 

It is a queer little picture, but it seemed very 
touching at that time. She saw a hillside covered 

o 

with soft reen. It was not a higfh hill and its 

O < ' 

slope was gentle. Why the " school-house under 
the hill" was placed on the top of it, would be 
difficult to explain. But there it was, and it 
seemed to look down on and watch benignly over 
something in a corner at the foot of it. The 

O 

something was a slab of the granite so gray ly- 
ing among the soft greenness of the grass. 

" And Sweet Alice lay under the stone." 

She was not a shadow Sweet Alice. She is 
something far more than a shadow even now, 
in a mind through which thousands of shadows 
have passed. She was a tender thing and she 



50 The One I Knew the Best of All 

had brown hair and somehow people loved her 
-and she died. 

It was not until Literature in the form of story 7 , 

j j 

romance, tragedy, and adventure had quickened 
her imagination that the figure of the Doll loomed 
up in the character of an absorbing interest, but 
once having appeared it never retired from the 
scene until advancing years forced the curtain to 
fall upon the exciting scenes of which it was al- 
ways the heroine. 

That was the truth of the matter it was not a 
Doll, but a Heroine. 

And some imagination was required to make it 
one. The Doll of that day was not the dimpled 
star-eyed creature of to-day, who can stand on her 
o\vn firm little feet, whose plump legs and arms 
can be placed in any position, whose attitudes 
may be made to express emotions in accordance 
with the Delsarte system, and who has parted 
lips and pearly teeth, and indulges in features. 
Not at all. 

The natural advantages of a doll of that period 
confined themselves to size, hair which was sewn 
on a little black skull-cap if it was not plastered 
on with mucilage - - and eyes which could be 
jerked open if one pulled a wire which stuck 
out of her side. The most expensive and magnifi- 
cent doll you could have was merely a big wax 
one, whose hair could be combed and whose eyes 



Literature and the Doll 51 

would open and shut. Otherwise they were all 
the same. Only the face and neck were of wax, 
and features were not studied by the manufact- 
urers. All the faces were exactly the same shape, 
or rather the same shapelessness. Expression and 
outline would have been considered wanton waste 
of material. To-day dolls have cheeks and noses 
and lips and brows, they look smiling or pensive, 
childlike or sophisticated. At that time no doll 
was guilty of looking anything at all. In the 
middle of her smooth, round face was a blunt 
excrescence which was called a nose, beneath it 
was a line of red paint which was meant for a 
mouth, on each side of it was a tight-looking 
black or blue glass eye as totally devoid of ex- 
pression and as far removed from any resem- 
blance to a real eye as the combined talents of ages 
of doll manufacturers could make it. It had no 
pupil and no meaning, it stared, it glared, and was 
only a little more awful when one pulled the wax 
lid over it than it was when it was fixed and open. 
Two arches of brown paint above it were its eye- 
brows, and all this beauty was surmounted with 
the small black cap on the summit of which was 
stretched a row of dangling curls of black or 
brown. Its body was stuffed with sawdust which 
had a tragic tendency to burst forth and run out 
through any hole in the white calico which was 
its skin. The arms and legs were like sawdust- 



52 The One I Kneiv t/ie Best of All 

stuffed sausages, its arms were covered with pink 
or blue or yellow or green kid, there being no 
prejudice caused by the fact that arms were not 
usually of any of these shades ; its legs dangled 
painfully and presented no haughty contours, and 
its toes invariably turned in. 

How an imagination, of the most fervid, could 
transform this thing into a creature resembling 
anything human one cannot explain. But nature 
is very good sometimes to little children. One 
day, in a squalid London street, I drove by a 
dirty mite sitting upon a step, cuddling warmly 
a little bundle of hay tied round the middle with 
a string. It was her baby. It probably was lily 
fair and had eyes as blue as heaven, and cooed 
and kissed her again --but grown-up people 
could not see. 

When I recall the adventures through which 
the Dolls of the Small Person passed, the trage- 
dies of emotion, the scenes of battle, murder, and 
sudden death, 1 do not wonder that at times the 
sawdust burst forth from their calico cuticle in 
streams, and the Nursery floor was deluged with 
it. Was it a thing to cause surprise that they 
wore out and only lasted from one birthday to 
another? Their span of life was short, but they 
could not complain that existence had not been 
full for them. The Doll who, on November 24th, 
begins a checkered career by mounting an un- 



Literature and t/ie Doll 53 

tamed and untamable, fiercely prancing and 
snorting steed, which, while it strikes sparks from 
the earth it spurns with its disdainful hoofs, wears 
to the outward gaze the aspect of the mere arm 
of a Nursery Sofa covered with green baize the 
Doll who begins life by mounting this steed, and 
so conquering its spirit that it responds to her 
touch and leaps the most appalling hedges and 
abysses, and leaves the lightning itself behind in 
its career ; and having done this on the 24th, is 
executed in black velvet on the 25th as Mary 
Queen of Scots, besides being imprisoned in the 
Tower of London as someone else, and threatened 
with the rack and the stake because she will not 
" recant " and become a Roman Catholic a Doll 
with a career like this cannot be dull, though she 
may at periods be exhausted. While the two lit- 
tle sisters of the Small Person arranged their doll's 
house prettily and had tea-parties out of minia- 
ture cups and saucers, and visited each other's 
corners of the nursery, in her corner the Small 
Person entertained herself with wildly thrilling 
histories, which she related to herself in an under- 
tone, while she acted them with the assistance of 
her Doll. 

She was all the characters but the heroine the 
Doll was that. She was the hero, the villain, the 
banditti, the pirates, the executioner, the weep- 
ing maids of honor, the touchingly benevolent 



54 The One I Knew the Best of All 

old gentleman, the courtiers, the explorers, the 
king. 

She always spoke in a whisper or an undertone, 
unless she was quite alone, because she was shy 
of being heard. This was probably an instinct 
at first, but it was a feeling intensified early by 
finding out that her habit of " talking to her- 
self," as others called it, was considered a joke. 
The servants used to listen to her behind doors 
and giggle when they caught her ; her brothers 
regarded her as a ridiculous little object. They 
were cricket -playing boys, who possibly won- 
dered in private if she was slightly cracked, but 
would have soundly thumped and belabored any 
other boy who had dared to suggest the same 
thing. 

The time came when she heard it said that she 
was " romantic." It was the most crushing thing 
she had ever experienced. She was quite sure 
that she Avas not romantic. She could not bear 
the ignominy of the suggestion. She did not 
know what she was, but she was sure she was not 
romantic. So she was very cautious in the mat- 
ter of keeping to her own corner of the Nursery 
and putting an immediate stop to her perform- 
ance the instant she observed a silence, as if any- 
one was listening. But her most delightful life 
concentrated itself in those dramatized stories 
through which she " talked to herself." 



Literature and the Doll 



55 



At the end of the entrance hall of the house in 
which she lived was a tall stand for a candelabra. 

It was of worked iron 
and its standard was or- 
namented with certain 
decorative sup- 
ports to the 
upper part. 
What were 
the emo- 
t i o n s 
of the 




Small 

Person's 

M a m m a , 

who was the 

gentlest a n d 

kindest of her sex, 

on coming upon her 

offspring one day, on descending the staircase, to 

find her apparently furious with insensate rage, 

muttering to herself as she brutally lashed, with 



56 The One I Knew the Best of AIL 

one of her brother's toy whips, a cheerfully hide- 
ous black gutta-percha doll who was tied to the 
candelabra stand and appeared to be enjoying the 
situation. 

" My dear, my dear ! ' exclaimed the alarmed 
little lady, " what arc you doing ? ' 

The Small Person gave a little jump and 
dropped at her side the stalwart right arm which 
had been wielding the whip. She looked as if 
she would have turned very red, if it had been 
possible for her to become redder than her exer- 
tions had made her. 

"I- -I was only playing," she faltered, sheep- 
ishly. 

" Playing ! " echoed her Mamma. " What ivcrc 
you playing ? ' 

The Small Person hung her head and answered, 
with downcast countenance, greatly abashed. 

" I was only just pretending something," she 
said. 

" It really quite distressed me," her Mamma 
said, in discussing the matter afterward with a 
friend. " I don't think she is really a cruel child. 
I always thought her rather kind-hearted, but she 
w r as lashing that poor black doll and talking to 
herself like a little fury. She looked quite 
\vicked. She said she was ' pretending ' some- 
thing. You know that is her way of playing. 
She does not play as Edith and Edwina do. She 



Literature and the Doll 57 

k pretends ' her doll is somebody out of a story 
and she is somebody else. She is very romantic. 
It made me rather nervous the other day when 
she dressed a baby-doll in white and put it into a 
box and covered it with flowers and buried it in 
the front garden. She was so absorbed in it, and 
she hasn't dug it up. She goes and strews flow- 
ers over the grave. I should like to know what 
she was ( pretending ' when she was beating the 
black doll." 

Not until the Small Person had outgrown all 

o 

dolls, and her mother reminded her of this inci- 
dent, did that innocent lady know that the black 
doll's name was Topsy, but that on this occasion 
it had been transformed into poor Uncle Tom, 
and that the little fury with flying hair was the 
wicked Legree. 

She had been reading " Uncle Tom's Cabin." 
What an era it was in her existence. The cheer- 
ful black doll was procured immediately and 
called Topsy ; her " best doll," which fortunately 
had brown hair in its wig, was Eva, and was kept 
actively employed slowly fading away and dying, 
while she talked about the New Jerusalem, with 
a hectic flush on her cheeks. She converted 
Topsy, and totally changed her gutta-percha nat- 
ure, though it was impossible to alter her gutta- 
percha grin. She conversed with Uncle Tom 
(then the Small Person was Uncle Tom) ; she cut 



58 The One I Knew the Best of All 

off "her long golden-brown curls" (not literally; 
that was only " pretended : ' the wig had not 
ringlets enough on it), and presented them to the 
weeping slaves. (Then the Small Person was all 
the weeping slaves at once.) It is true that her 
blunt-nosed wax countenance remained perfectly 
unmoved throughout all this emotion, and it must 
be confessed that at times the Small Person felt a 
lack in her, but an ability to " pretend " ardently 
was her consolation and support. 

It surely must be true that all children possess 
this right of entry into the fairyland, where any- 
thing can be " pretended." I feel quite sure they 
do, and that, if one could follow them in the " pre- 
tendings," one would make many discoveries 
about them. One day, in the Cascine in Florence, 
a party of little girls passed me. They were led 
by a handsome child of eleven or twelve, who, 
with her head in the air, was speaking rapidly in 
French. 

" Moi," she said to the others as she went by, 



and she made a fine gesture with her hand, " Moi 
je suis la Reine ; vous vous etes ma suite ! ' 

It set one to thinking. Nature has the caprice 
sometimes, we know, to endow a human thing at 
birth with gifts and powers which make it through 
life a leader "la reine' or "le roi," of whom 
afterward others are always more or less " la 
suite." But one wondered if such gifts and 



Literature and the Doll 59 

powers in themselves had not a less conscious 
and imperious air than this young- pretender 
wore. 

The green-covered sofa in the Nursery was an 
adventurous piece of furniture. To the casual 
observer it wore a plain old-fashioned, respectable 
exterior. It was hard and uninviting and had an 
arm at each end under which was fitted a species 
of short, stiff green bolster or sausage. But these 
arms were capable of things of which the cold 
unimaginative world did not dream. I wonder if 

o 

the sofa itself dreamed of them and if it found 
them an interesting variety of its regular Nursery 
life. These arms were capable of transforming 
themselves at a moment's notice into the most 
superb equine form. They were " coal-black 
steeds ' or " snow-white palfreys," or " untamed 
mustangs ;" they " curvetted," they " caracoled," 
they pranced, their " proud hoofs spurned the 
earth." They were always doing things like these, 
while the Doll " sprang lightly to her saddle " or sat 
" erect as a dart." They were always untamable, 
but the Doll in her character of heroine could 
always tame them and remain smiling and fearless 
while they " dashed across the boundless plain ' 
or clawed the heavens with their forefeet. No 
equestrian feat ever disturbed the calm hauteur 
of the Doll. She issued triumphant from every 
deadly peril. 



60 The One I Knew the Best of AIL 

It was Sir Walter Scott who transformed the 
sofa-arms to " coal-black steeds," G. P. R. James 
and Harrison Ainsworth who made them " snow- 
white palfreys," and Captain Mayne Reid whose 
spell changed them to "untamed mustangs' and 
the Nursery into a boundless prairie across which 
troops of Indian warriors pursued the Doll upon 
her steed, in paint and feathers, and with war- 
whoops and yells, having as their object in view 
the capture of her wig. 

What a beautiful, beautiful story the " War 
Trail ' was with its white horse of the prairie 
which would not be caught. How one thrilled 
and palpitated in the reading of it. It opened the 
gateway to the world of the prairie, where the 
herds of wild horse swept the plain, where buffa- 
loes stampeded, and Indian chieftains, magnifi- 
cent and ferocious and always covered with wam- 
pum (whatever wampum might be), pursued heroes 
and heroines alike. 

And the delight of Ainsworth's " Tower of Lon- 
don." That beloved book with the queer illus- 
trations. The pictures of Og, Gog, and Magog, 
and Xit the Dwarf, Mauger the Headsman, the 
crafty Renard, the Princess Elizabeth with Cour- 
tenay kneeling at her feet, and poor embittered 
Queen Mary looking on. 

What a place it was for a Small Person to wan- 
der through in shuddering imaginings, through 






Literature and the Doll 61 

the dark, dank subterranean passages, where the 
rats scurried, and where poor IT ad Alexia roamed, 
persecuted by her jailer. One passed by dun- 
geons where noble prisoners pined through years 
of dying life, one mounted to towers where queens 
had waited to be beheaded, one was led with 
chilling blood through the dark Traitors' Gate. 
But one reached sometime or other the huge 
kitchen and servitors' hall, where there was such 
endless riotous merriment, where so much " sack ' 
and " Canary ' was drunk, where there were 
great rounds of roast beef, and " venison pasties," 
and roast capons, and even peacocks, and where 
they ate " manchets " of bread and " quaffed " their 
flagons of nut-brown ale, and addressed each other 
as " Sirrah " and " Varlet " and " Knave " in their 
elephantine joking. 

Poor little Lady Jane Grey ! Poor handsome, 
misguided Guilford Dudley ! Poor anguished, 
terrified, deluded Northumberland ! 

What tragic, historical adventures the Doll 
passed through in these days ; how she was 
crowned, discrowned, sentenced, and beheaded, 
and what horror the Nursery felt of wretched, 
unloved, heretic-burning Bloody Mary ! And 
through these tragedies the Nursery Sofa almost 
invariably accompanied her as palfrey, scaffold, 
dungeon, or barge from which she " stepped to 
proudly, sadly pass the Traitors' Gate." 



62 77ie One I Knew the Best of All 

And if the Nursery Sofa, was an endeared and 
interesting object, how ungrateful it would be to 
ignore the charms of the Green Arm Chair in the 
Sitting Room, the Sitting Room Cupboard, and 
the Sitting Room Table. It would seem simply 
graceless and irreverent to write the names of 

o 

these delightful objects, as if they were mere 
common nouns, without a title to capital letters. 
They were benevolent friends who lent their aid 
in the carrying out of all sorts of fascinating epi- 
sodes, who could be confided in, as it were, and 
trusted never to laugh when things were going 
on, however dramatic they might be. 

The sitting-room was only a small one, but some- 
how it had an air of seclusion. It was not the cus- 
tom to play in it, but when nobody was there and 
the nursery was specially active it had powerful 
attractions. One could go in there with the Doll 
and talk to one's self when the door was shut, 
with perfect freedom from fear of listeners. And 
there was the substantial sober-looking Arm Chair 
-as sober and respectable as the Nursery Sofa, 
and covered with the same green stuff, and it 
could be transformed into a " bark " of any de- 
scription from a pinnace to a gondola, a canoe, or 
a raft set afloat by the survivors of a sinking ship 
to drift for weeks upon " the trackless ocean ' 
without water or food. 

Little incidents of this description were contimi- 



Literature and the Doll 63 

ally taking- place in the career of the Doll. She 
was accustomed to them. Not a hair of her wig 
turned at the agreeable prospect of being barely 
rescued from a burning ship, of being pursued 
all over the Indian Ocean or the Pacific by a " rak- 
ish-looking craft," flying the black flag and known 
to be manned by a crew of bloodthirsty pirates 
whose amusement of making captives walk the 
plank was alternated by the scuttling of ships. It 
was the head pirate's habit to attire himself almost 
wholly in cutlasses and pistols, and to greet the 
appearance of any prepossessing female captive 
with the blood-curdling announcement, "She 
shall be mine ! ' But the Doll did not mind that 
in the least, and it only made it thrilling for the 
hero who had rescued her from the burning ship. 
It was also the opinion of the Small Person that no 
properly constituted pirate chief could possibly 
omit greeting a female captive in this manner it 
rather took, in fact, the form of a piratical custom. 
The sitting-room floor on these occasions repre- 
sented mid-ocean the Pacific, the Indian, or the 
Mediterranean Sea, their waters being so infested 
with sharks and monsters of the deep (in order 
that the hero might plunge in and rescue the Doll, 
whose habit it was to fall overboard) that it was a 
miracle that it was possible at all to steer the Green 
Arm Chair. 

But how nobly and with what nautical skill it 



64 The One I Knciv the Best of All 

was steered by the hero ! The crew was neces- 
sarily confined to the Doll and this unconquer- 
able beinsj because the Green Arm Chair was not 



big. 

But notwithstanding his heroic conduct, the 
cold judgment of maturer years has led me to be- 
lieve that this young man's mind must either have 
been enfeebled by the hardships through which 
he had passed, or that the ardor of his passion for 
the Doll had caused his intellect to totter on its 
throne. I am led to this conviction by my dis- 
tinct recollection of the fact that on the occasion 
of some of their most perilous voyages, when the 
Doll had been rescued at the peril of his noble 
life, the sole article which he rescued with her, as 
being of practical value upon a raft, was a musical 
instrument. An indifferent observer who had seen 
this instrument in the hand of the Small Person 
might have coarsely supposed it to be a tin whistle 
-of an order calculated to make itself specially un- 
pleasant- -but to the hero of the raft and to the 
doll it was known as " a lute." Why, with his 
practical knowledge of navigation, the hero should 
have felt that a rescued young lady on a raft, with- 
out food or water, might be sustained in moments 
of collapse from want of nutrition by performances 
upon the " lute " only persons of deep feeling and 
sentiment could explain. But the lute was there 
and the hero played on it, in intervals of being 



Literature and the Doll 65 

pursued by pirates or perishing from starvation, 
with appropriately self-sacrificing sentiments. 
For myself I have since thought that possibly the 
tendency the Doll developed for falling into the 
depths of the ocean arose from an unworthy desire 
to distract the attention of her companion from his 
musical rhapsodies. He was, of course, obliged 
to lay his instrument aside while he leaped over- 
board and rescued her from the sharks, and she 
may have preferred that he should be thus en- 
gaged. Were my nature more hardened than 
years have as yet made it I might even say that at 
times she perhaps thought that the sharks might 
make short work of his lute or himself and there 
may have been moments when she scarcely cared 
which. It must be irritating to be played to on a 
lute, when one is perishing slowly from inanition. 
But ah ! the voyages in the Green Arm Chair, 
the seas it sailed, the shores it touched, the en- 
chanted islands it was cast upon ! The Small 
Person has never seen them since. They were of 
the fair world she used to see as she lay upon her 
back on the grass in the Back Garden of Eden, 
and looked up into the sky where the white islands 
floated in the blue. One could long for a no 
more perfect thing than that ; after the long years 
of wandering on mere, earth, one might find them 
again, somewhere - - somewhere. Who knows 

where ? 
5 



66 The One I Knew the Best of All 

How surprised the governess would have been, 
how amused the mamma, how derisive in their ri- 
bald way the brothers, if they had known that the 
Sitting Room Cupboard was a temple in Central 
America that the strange pigmy remnants of the 
Aztec royal race were kept there and worshipped 
as gods, and that bold explorers, hearing of their 
mysterious existence, went in search of them in 
face of all danger and difficulty and with craft and 
daring discovered and took them away. All 
these details were in a penny pamphlet which had 
been sold at the hall of exhibition where the two 
Aztec dwarfs had been on view, the object of the 
scientific explorer having apparently been to make 
a good thing of them by exhibiting them at a shil- 
ling a head, children half price. 

The Small Person had not been taken to see 
them ; in fact, it is possible that the exhibition had 
not belonged to her time. But at some time, 
some member of her family must have been of 
their audience, for there was the pamphlet, with 
extraordinary woodcuts of the explorers, wood- 
cuts of the Aztecs with their dwarfed bodies and 
strange receding profiles, and woodcuts of the 
temple where they had been worshipped as the 
last remnant of a once magnificent, now practi- 
cally extinct, royal race. 

The woodcuts were very queer, and the Temple 
was apparently a ruin, whose massive broken and 



Literature and the Doll 67 

fallen columns made it all the more a place to 
dwell upon in wild imaginative dreams. Restored, 
in the Sitting Room Cupboard, it was a majestic 
pile. Mystic ceremonials were held there, splen- 
did rites were solemnized. The Doll took part in 
them, the Small Person officiated. Both of them 
explored, both discovered the Aztecs. To clo so 
it was necessary to kneel on the floor with one's 
head inside the cupboard while the scenes were 
enacted, but this in no wise detracted from the 
splendor of their effect and the intensity of their 
interest. Nothing could. 

The Sitting Room Table must have been adorned 
with a cover much too large for it, or else in those 
days table-covers were intended to be large. This 
one hung down so far over the table that when one 
sat on the floor underneath it with the Doll, it be- 
came a wigwam. The Doll was a squaw and the 
Small Person a chief. They smoked the calumet 
and ate maize, and told each other stories of the 
war-trail and the happy hunting-grounds. They 
wore moccasins, and feathers, and wampum, and 
brought up papooses, and were very happy. Their 
natures were mild. They never scalped anyone, 
though the tomahawk was as much a domestic 
utensil as the fire-irons might have been if they 
had had an Indian flavor. That it was dark under 
the enshrouding table-cloth made the wigwam all 
the more realistic. A wigwam with bay windows 



68 The One I Kneiu the Best of All 

and a chandelier would not have been according 
to Mayne Reid and Fenimore Cooper. And it 
was so shut out from the world there, one could 
declaim in undertones with such freedom. It 
seemed as if surely outside the wall of the table- 
cloth there was no world at all no real world- 
it was all under the Sitting Room Table inside 
the wigwam. Since then I have often wondered 
what the grown-up people thought, who, coming 
into the room, saw the table-cloth drawn down, 
and heard a little voice whispering, whispering, 
whispering beneath its shadow. Sometimes the 
Small Person did not know when they came or 
went, she was so deeply absorbed so far away. 

Ah, the world went very well then. It was a 
wonderful world so full of story and adventure 
and romance. One did not need trunks and rail- 
roads ; one could go to Central America, to Cen- 
tral Africa to Central Anywhere on the arm of 
the Nursery Sofa on the wings of the Green 
Arm Chair under the cover of the Sitting Room 
Table. 

There is a story of the English painter Watts 
which I always remember as a beautiful and 
subtle thing, though it is only a brief anecdote. 

He painted a picture of Covent Garden Mar- 
ket, which was a marvel of picturesque art and 
meaning. One of his many visitors a lady- 
looked at it long and rather doubtfully. 



Literature and the Doll 69 

" Well, Mr. Watts," she said, " this is all very 
beautiful, of course, but / know Covent Garden 
Market and I must confess / have never seen it 
look like this." 

"No?" replied Watts. And then, looking at 
her thoughtfully. " Don't you wish you could ! ' 

It was so pertinent to many points of view. 

As one looks back across the thousand years of 
one's life, to the time when one saw all things like 
this recognizing how far beyond the power of 
maturer years it is to see them so again one says 
with half a smile, and more than half a sigh : 

" Ah, does not one wish one could ! ' 



CHAPTER V. 

Islington Square. 

IT was one of those rather interesting places 
which one finds in all large English towns places 
which have seen better days. They are only in- 
teresting on this account. Their early picturesque- 
ness has usually been destroyed by the fact 
that a railroad has forced its way into their neigh- 
borhood, or factories, and their accompanying 
cottages for operatives, have sprung up around 
them. Both these things had happened to Isling- 
ton Square, and only the fact that it was an en- 
closed space, shut in by a large and quite impos- 
ing iron gateway, aided it to retain its atmosphere 
of faded gentility. Such places are often full of 
story, though they have no air of romance about 
them. The people who live in them have them- 
selves usually seen better days. They are often- 
est widowed ladies with small incomes, and itn- 
widowed gentlemen with large families people 
who, not having been used to cramped quarters, 
are glad to find houses of good size at a reduced 
rent. 

Some of the houses in the Square were quite 



Islington Square 7 1 



stately in proportion, and in their better days 
must have been fine enough places. But that 
halcyon period was far in the past. Islington 
Hall the most imposing structure was a " Select 
Seminary for young ladies and gentlemen ;" its 
companion house stood empty and deserted, as 
also did several others of the largest ones, prob- 
ably because the widowed ladies and unwidowed 
gentlemen coulcl not afford the corps of servants 
which would have been necessary to keep them 
in order. 

In the centre of the Square was a Lamp Post. 
1 write it with capital letters because it was not 
an ordinary lamp post. It was a very big one, 
and had a solid base of stone, which all the 
children thought had been put there for a seat. 
Four or five little girls could sit on it, and four or 
five little girls usually did when the day was fine. 

Ah ! the things which were talked over under 
the Lamp Post, the secrets that were whispered, 
and the wrongs that were discussed ! In the win- 
ter, when the gas was lighted at four o'clock, 
there could be no more delightfully secluded spot 
for friendly conversation than the stone base of 
the lamp which cast its yellow light from above. 

Was it worldly pride and haughtiness of spirit 
which gave rise, in the little girls who lived in 
the Square, to a sense of exclusiveness which 
caused them to resent an outside little girl's en- 



72 The One I Knew the Best of All 





, 




tering the iron gates and sitting " on the Lamp 
Post?" They always spoke of it as "sitting on 
the Lamp Post." 



Islington Square 73 

" Who is that sitting on the Lamp Post ? " would 
be said disapprovingly. " She is not a Square 
girl ; we don't want Street children sitting on our 
Lamp Post." 

" Street children " were those who lived in the 
streets surrounding the Square, and, as they were 
in most cases not desirable young persons, they 
were not considered eligible for the society of 
" Square children " and the Lamp Post. 

When the Small Person was introduced to her 
first copy of the stories of Hans Christian Ander- 
sen, she found a sketch which had a special charm 
for her. It was called " The Old Street Lamp," 
and it seemed to be the story of the Lamp 
in the middle of the Square. It seemed to ex- 
plain a feeling of affection she had always had for 
it a feeling that it was not quite an inanimate 
object. She had played about it and sat on the 
stone, and had seen it lighted so often that she 
loved it, though she had never said so even to 
herself. She slept in a front room with her mam- 
ma, in the very fourpost bed which had been a 
feature in the first remembered episode of her 
life. Her house exactly faced the Lamp Post, 
and at night its light shone in at her bedroom 
window and made a bright patch on the wall. 
She used to lie and think about things by the 
gleam of it, and somehow she never felt quite 
alone. She would have missed it very much if 



74 The One I Knew the Best of All 

it had not watched over her. At that time street 
lamps were not lighted in an instant by a magic 
wand. A lamplighter came with a ladder over 
his shoulder. He placed the ladder against the 
post and ran up it with what seemed astonishing 
rapidity, and after lighting the gas ran down 
again, shouldered his ladder, and walked off. 

How the Small Person adored the novel called 
" The Lamplighter ; ' how familiar the friendly 
lamp seemed to her, and how she loved old Uncle 
True ! Was there ever such a lovable old man- 
were there ever sufferings that moved one to such 
tears as Gerty's ? 

The Street children, as I have said, were not 
considered desirable companions for the " Square 
children." The Square was at that time a sort of 
oasis in the midst of small thoroughfares and back 

o 

streets, where factory operatives lived and where 
the broadest Lancashire dialect throve. It was 
difficult enough to preserve to children any pu- 
rity of enunciation in a neighborhood of broad- 
est vowels, and as manner of speech is in England 
a mark of breeding, association with the Street 
children was not encouraged. 

o 

But the Small Person adored Street children. 
She adored above all things the dialect they 
spoke, and the queer things they said. To stray 
into a forbidden back street and lure a dirty little 
factory child into conversation was a delight. To 



Islington Square 75 

stand at the iron gateway at twelve o'clock and 
see the factory people streaming past> and hear 
the young women in tied-back aprons and with 
shawls over their heads, shouting friendly or de- 
risive chaff to the young men and boys in cordu- 
roys, was as good as a play in fact, a great deal 
better than most plays. 

She learned to speak the dialect as well as any 
of them, though it was a furtively indulged in ac- 
complishment. She had two or three clever little 
girl friends who were fluent in it, and who used 
it with a rich sense of humor. They used to tell 
each other stories in it, and carry on animated 
conversations without losing a shade of its flavor. 

O 

They said, " Wilt tha' and " Wheer art goin'," 
and " Sithee lass," and " Eh ! tha young besom, 
tha! " with an easy familiarity which they did not 
display in the matter of geography. There was a 
very dirty little boy whose family lived rent free, as 
care-takers in one of the deserted big houses, and 
this dirty little boy was a fount of joy. He had a 
disreputable old grandfather who was perennially 
drunk, and to draw forth from Tommy, in broad- 
est Lancashire dialect, a cheerfully realistic de- 
scription of " Granfeyther ' in his cups, was an 
entertainment not to be despised. Granfeyther's 
weakness was regarded by Tommy in the light of 
an amiable solecism, and his philosophical good 
spirits over the matter presented a point of view 



76 The One I Knew the Best of All \ 

picturesquely novel to the Small Person and her 
friends. " Eh ! tha should heer my Granfeyther 
sweer when he's drunk," Tommy would remark, 
with an air of triumph suggesting a decent family 
pride. " Tha shouldst just heer him. Tha never 
heerd nothin' loike it tha didn't ! ' with an evi- 
dent sense of the limited opportunities of good 
society. 

It was the habit of the Small Person to sit upon 
the floor before one of the drawing-room windows 
each evening, and learn her lessons for the next 
day ; and on one of these occasions she saw a creat- 
ure who somehow puzzled and interested her in- 
tensely, though she could not have explained why. 

It was part of an unwritten law that people 
who did not occupy houses in the Square should 
not come into it, unless they had business. This 
possibly arose from the fact that it was not a 
thoroughfare, and there was really no reason 
why outsiders should pass the iron gates. 

When they did they were always regarded 
with curiosity until one knew what they wanted. 
This limitation, in fact, gave the gravelled en- 
closure surrounded by factories and small streets 
something the social atmosphere of a tiny, rather 
gossipy, country town. Each household knew 
the other, and had a knowledge of its affairs only 
limited by the characteristics and curiosities of 
the members. 



Islington Square 77 

So, on this particular evening, when the Small 
Person, hearing voices, looked up from her geog- 
raphy to see a group of stranger children gath- 
ered about the Lamp Post, she put her elbows on 
the window-sill and her cheeks on her hands, and 
looked out at them with interest. 

They were evidently not only " Street children," 
but they were " Back Street children," a race 
more exciting to regard as objects, because their 
customs and language were, as it were, exotic. 
" Back Street children " ahvays spoke the dialect, 
and the adult members of their families almost 
invariably worked in the factories often, indeed, 
the children worked there themselves. In that 
locality the atmosphere of fas foyer was frequent- 
ly of a lively nature, generally the heads of the 
families evinced a marked partiality for beer, and 
spent their leisure moments in consuming "pots" 
of it at " th' Public." This not uncommonly re- 
sulted in argument of a spirited nature, entered 
into, quite probably, in the street, carried on inco- 
herently, but with vigor, on the door-steps, and 
settled with the fire-irons or portable domestic 
articles in the home circle. Frequently these 
differences of opinion were terminated with the 
assistance of one or more policemen ; and while 
the discussions were being carried on the street 
was always filled with a mob of delighted and 
eagerly sympathetic neighbors. Feeling always 



78 The One I Knew the Best of All 

ran high among the ladies, who usually stood and 
regarded the scene with arms akimbo. 

" A noice chap he is ! " it would be said some- 
times. " He broke th' beer jug ower 'er 'ed two 
weeks sin', an' now he's give her a graidely black 
eye. He out to be put i' th' Lockups." 

Or 

" No wonder he gi'es her a hidin'. Her spends 
all his wage at th' Black Pig i' th' beer. She was 
drunk o' Thursday, an' drunk o' Friday, an' now 
she's gettin' ready fur Saturday neet." 

" A row in Islington Court ! " or " A row in 
Back Sydney Street. Man beating his wife with 
a shovel ! ' was a cry which thrilled the bolder 
juvenile spirits of the Square with awesome de- 
light. There were even fair little persons who 
hovered shudderingly about the big gates, or even 
passed them, in the shocked hope of seeing a 
policeman march by with somebody in custody. 

And the strangers gathered about the Lamp 
Post were of this world. 

They were half a dozen girls or more. Most of 
them factory girls in print frocks, covered by the 
big coarse linen apron, which was tied all the way 
down the back to confine their skirts, and keep 
them from being caught by the machinery. They 
had no bonnets on, and they wore clogs on their 
feet. They were all the ordinary type of small 
factory girl all but one. Why did the Small 



Islington Square 79 

Person find her eyes fixed upon that one, and fol- 
lowing her movements ? She was bigger than 
the others, and seemed more mature, though a 
child could not have explained why. She was 
dressed exactly as they were print frock, tied- 
back apron, clogs, and bare head, and she held 
a coarse blue worsted stocking, which she was 
knitting as she talked. It did not occur to the 
Small Person that she was beautiful. At that age 
beauty meant to her something with pink cheeks 
and sparkling blue or black eyes, and sweetly 
curled hair, and a charming frock. Not a strange- 
looking, colorless factory girl, knitting a worsted 
stocking and wearing wooden clogs. Certainly not. 

And yet at that girl she stared, quite forgetting 
her geography. 

The other girls were the ordinary rough lot, 
talking loudly, bouncing about and pushing each 
other. But this one was not playing at all. She 
stood or moved about a little, with a rather meas- 
ured movement, knitting all the time her blue 
worsted stocking. She was about sixteen, but 
of rather massive and somehow majestic mould. 
The Small Person would have said she was " big 
and slow," if she had been trying to describe her. 
She had a clear, colorless face, deep, large gray 
eyes, slender, but strong, straight black brows, 
and a rather square chin with a cleft in it. Her 
hair was dark and had a slight large wave, it 



8o The One I Knew the Best of All 

was thick and drawn into a heavy knot on the 
nape of her neck, which was fine and full like a 
pillar, and held her head in a peculiar stately way. 

The Small Person, as she watched her, came to 
the decision that there was " something the mat- 
ter with her." 

" What is it?" she said, mentally, with a puzzled 
and impressed feeling. " She's not a bit like the 
others. She does not look like a Back Street girl 
:it all, though she has got clogs on. Somehow 
she's different." 

That was it. She was different. That was 
why one could not return to one's geography 
while one could watch her. 

Her companions seemed to appeal to her as if 
she were a sort of power and influence. She 
seemed to control them when they made too much 
noise, though she went on knitting her stocking. 
The windows were closed, and it was not possible 
to hear what was said, but occasional loudly spoken 
dialect words or phrases reached the Small Person. 
The group did not stay long, and when it went the 
one who was " different " led it, and the looker-on 
watched her out of sight, and pondered a mo- 
ment or so with her nose flattened against the 
glass, before she went back to her geography. 

One evening the next week, at about the same 
time, the same group appeared again. The Small 
Person was again on the floor with her lessons on 



Islington Square 81 

her knee, the factory girls were still laughing and 
boisterous, and the one who was different was 
again knitting. 

The Small Person shuffled all her books off her 
knee and let them drop in a heap on the carpet. 
She put her elbows on the window-sill again, and 
gave herself up to absorbed contemplation. 

That the other girls shouted and giggled was 
not interesting, but it was interesting to see how, 
in the midst of the giggles and shouts, the big one 
seemed a stately, self-contained creature who be- 
longed to another world. Somehow she seemed 
strangely to suggest a story which one could not 
read, and of which one could not guess at the plot. 

When she grew older and knew more of people 
and lives and characters, the Small Person guessed 
that she was a story this strong, pale creature 
with the stately head and square-cleft chin. She 
was that saddest story of all, which is beauty and 
fineness and power a splendid human thing born 
into a world to which she does not belong by any 
kinship, and in which she must stand alone and 
struggle in silence and suffer. This was what was 
the matter with her, this was why a ten-year-old 
child, bearing in her own breast a thermometer 
of the emotions, dropped her lesson-books to look 
at her, and gazed restless and dissatisfied because 
she could not explain to herself why this one was 

" different." 
6 



82 The One I Knew the Best of All 

This evening the group did not leave the place 
as they had done before. 

Some girl, turning round toward the entrance, 
caught sight of an approaching figure, and has- 
tily, and evidently in some consternation, elbowed 
a companion. Then they all looked. 

A man was coming toward them an ill-looking 
brute in corduroys, with his hands in his pockets 
and a moleskin cap pulled over his brows. He 
slouched forward as if he were in a bad temper. 

" Here's thy feyther ! ' cried one of the girls. 
And she said it to the one who was knitting. She 
looked at the advancing man and went on knitting 
as if nothing was occurring. The Small Person 
would have given all her lesson-books particu- 
larly the arithmetic to know what he had come 
for. She knew the kind of man. He usually 
drank a great deal of beer and danced on his wife 
in his clogs when depressed or irritated. Some- 
times he " punsed ' her to death if he had been 
greatly annoyed, and females were rather afraid 
of him. 

But the girl with the deep eyes and straight 
black brows evidently was not. She was also evi- 
dently used to him. lie went up to her and 
addressed her with paternal blasphemy. He 
seemed to be ordering 1 her to go home. He 

o o 

growled and bullied her, and threatened her with 
his fist. 



Islington Square 



The Small Person had a horrible fear that he 
would knock her down and kick her, as was the 
custom of his class. She felt she could not bear 
it, and had a wild idea of dashing out somewhere 
for a policeman. 




But the girl was different. She looked him 
straight in the brutal face and went on knitting. 
Then she turned and walked slowly out of the 
Square. He walked behind her, threatening her 
at intervals with his fist and his lifted clog. 



84 The One I Knew the Best of All 

" Dom tha brazent impidence ! " the Small Per- 
son heard him say once. 

But the girl walked calmly before him without 
a word or a hurried movement. She went on 
knitting the stocking until she turned the corner 
and disappeared for the last time from the Small 
Person's sympathetic gaze. She also disappeared 
from her life, for the little girl never saw her 
again. 

But she thought of her often and pondered her 
over, and felt her a power and a mystery. Not 
until she had given some contemplative thought 
to various antique marbles, and had wondered 
" what was the matter ' with the Venus of 
Milo, did it dawn upon her mind that in this girl 
in the clogs and apron she had seen and been 
overpowered by Beauty such' as goddesses were 
worshipped for, and strength such as should be- 
long to one who ruled. She always wanted to 
know what happened afterward, but there was 
no end to the story that she ever saw. So it Avas 
that some years later she Avrote a beginning, a 
middle, and an end herself. She made the factory 
operative a Pit Girl, and she called her Joan 
Lowrie. 

There was such food for the imagination in 
thus living surrounded by the lives of streets full 
of people who belonged to another world than 
one's own a world whose customs, manners, and 



Islington Square 85 

language were wholly foreign in one sense- 
where even children got up before daylight and 
went to their work in the big, whirring, oil-smell- 
ing factories where there was a possibility of be- 
ing caught by the machinery and carried after- 
ward to the Infirmary, followed by a staring, 
pitying crowd a broken, bleeding heap of human 
suffering lying decently covered on a stretcher. 
Such accidents were such horrors that to a child 
mind they seemed always impending, though 
their occurrence was not frequent. But the mere 
possibility of them made one regard these peo- 
ple who lived among the ghastly wheels with 
awe. 

On the same floor with the Nursery was a room 
where the governess slept, presiding over an ex- 
tra bed which contained two little girls. There 
was a period when for some reason the Small 
Person was one of them. The window of this 
room, which was at the back, looked down upon 
the back of the row of cottages in which opera- 
tives lived. When one glanced downward it was 
easy to see into their tiny kitchens and watch 
them prepare their breakfasts, and eat them too, 
if one were curious. 

Imagine, then, the interest of waking very 
early one dark winter's morning and seeing a 
light reflected on the ceiling of the Nursery bed- 
room from somewhere far below. 



86 The One I Knew the Best of All 

The Small Person did this once, and after 
watching a little, discovered that not only the 
light and the window itself were reflected, but 
two figures which seemed to pass before it or 
stand near it. 

It was too exciting to watch alone, so she spoke 
to her sister, who slept at her side. 

" Edith ! " she whispered, cautiously, for fear of 
disturbing the governess, " Edith, do wake up. 
I want to show you something." The prospect 
of being shown something in what appeared to 
be the middle of the night, was a thing to break 
any slumbers. 

Edith turned and rubbed her eyes. 

"What is it?" she asked, sleepily. 

" It's a man and a woman," whispered the Small 
Person, half under the bed-clothes, " Back Street 
people in their kitchen. You can see them on our 
ceiling. This ceiling; just look." 

Edith looked. Back Street people always 
awakened curiosity. 

" So we can," she said, with a carefully 
smothered giggle. " There the woman is now ! ' 

" She's got something in her hand," said the 
Small Person. " It looks like a loaf." 

" It's a piece of something!' whispered Edith. 

" It must be a loaf," said the Small Person. 
" They're factory people, and the man's wife must 
be getting his breakfast before he goes to 



Islington Sqitare 87 

work. I wonder what poor people have for 
breakfast?" 

" There's the man ! " exclaimed Edith, with so 
much animation that the governess turned in her 
sleep. 

" Hush," warned the Small Person ; " she'll 
wake up and scold us for making a noise." 

" The man is washing his face on the dresser," 
said Edith, in more discreet tones. " We can see 
what they do when they are near the window. I 
can see him rubbing and wiggling his head." 

" So can I," said the Small Person. " Isn't it 
fun ? 1 hope the roller-towel is near the window." 

The little whispers, cautious as they were, pen- 
etrated the drowsy ears of the governess. She 
half awakened. 

x " Children," she said, " what are you whisper- 
ing about ? Don't be so naughty. Go to sleep ! ' 
All very well for a sleepy governess, but for two 
little persons awake at four o'clock, and with 
front seats at a Back Street panorama on their 
own bedroom ceiling, ridiculously out of the 
question. 

Ah, the charm of it ! The sense of mystery and 
unusualness. It seemed the middle of the night. 
In all the bedrooms through the house every one 
was asleep the servants, the brothers, mamma, 
the very Doll had had her wire pulled and her 
wax eyelids drawn clown. Being awake had the 



88 The One I Knew the Best of All 

charms of nursery guilt in it. It was naughty to 
be awake, and it was breaking rules to talk. But 
how could one go to sleep with the rest when the 
Back Street woman was awake and getting } ier 

C5 O 

husband's breakfast. One's own ceiling reflected 
it and seemed to include one in the family circle. 

" If they hada fight," whispered Edith, " we 
could see it." 

There was no end of speculation to be indulged 
in. What each figure was really doing when it 
was near enough to the window to be reflected, 
what it did when it moved away out of the range 
of reflection, and what it was possible they said 
to each other, were all things to be excitedly 
guessed at, and to endanger the repose of the 
governess. 

" Edith, you are a naughty girl," she said. 
" Frances, I shall speak to your mamma. Edith 
would not be whispering if you were not with her. 
Go to sleep this instant ! ' As if going to sleep 
was a thing done by touching an electric button. 

How they longed to creep out of bed, and peep 
through the window down into the Back Street 
people's kitchen itself. But that was out o! the 
question. Neither of them would have dared 
such an insubordination the first morning, at 
least. 

But there were other such morningrs. It be- 

o 

came a habit to waken at that delightful and un- 



Islington Square 89 

canny hour, just for the pleasure of lying awake 
and watching the Woman and the Man. That 
was what they called them. They never knew 
what their names were, or anything about them, 
except what was reflected during that early break- 
fast hour upon the ceiling. 

But the Small Person was privately attached to 
them, and continually tried to imagine what they 
said. She had a fancy that they were a decent 
couple, who were rather fond of each other, and 
it was a great comfort to her that they never had 
a fight. 



CHAPTER VI. 

A Confidence Betrayed 

Is the age of seven years an age of special de- 
velopment, or an age which attracts incidents in- 
teresting, and having an effect on life, and the 
formation of character? As I look back I remem- 
ber so many things which seemed to happen to 
the Small Person when she was seven years old. 
She was seven, or thereabouts, when she discov- 
ered the Secretaire ; seven when she began to 
learn the Lancashire dialect, and study Back 
Street people ; seven when she first saw Death, 
with solemn, asking eyes, and awe in her soul ; 
seven when she wrote her first inarticulate story, 
which was a poem ; and seven when she was first 
brought face to face with the enormity of a be- 
trayed confidence. 

Thank God, she did not quite realize what had 
happened to her, and that her innocence gave 
every reason for hope disappointed, but the true 
one, that she had been trifled with and deceived ; 
and thank Heaven, also, that the point involved 
was not one cruel enough to leave a deep wound. 
In fact, though it was quite a serious matter with 



A Confidence Betrayed 91 

her, she was more mystified and disappointed 
than hurt, and for some time did not realize that 
she had been the subject of one of maturity's 
jokes. 

She had a passion for babies. She seldom pre- 
tended that the Doll was a baby, but a baby a 
new baby was an object of rapturous delight to 
her. She liked them very new indeed quite red, 
and with little lace caps on, and disproportionately 
long clothes. She never found them so delight- 
ful as when they wore long clothes. When their 
frocks were made short, and one could see their 
little red or white shoes kicking, the bloom seemed 
to have gone off they were no longer real babies. 
But when the nurse seemed to be obliged to move 
them carefully lest they should fall into minute 
fragments, when their mouth always opened when 
one kissed them, and when they were fragrant of 
warm flannel, warm milk, and violet powder, they 
were the loves of her yearning little soul. 

There were one or two ladies in the square who 
were given to new babies, and when one of their 
number honored the neighborhood, the Small 
Person was always one of the first to hear of it. 

"Did you know," it would be said by some 
little individual, "that Mrs. Roberts has got a 
new baby ? ' 

Then joy would reign unconfined in the Small 
Person's breast. The Doll would be given a day's 



92 The One I Knew the Best of All 

holiday. Her sawdust interior somehow seemed 
such an evident thing. She would be left in her 
chair to stare, Avhile her proprietor hovered about 
the Roberts house, and walked with friends past 
it, looking up at the windows, and discussing, 
with bated breath, as to whether the new baby 
was a girl or a boy. I think she had a predilec- 
tion for girls, feeling somehow that they tended 
to long clothes for the greater length of time. 

Then some day, having had her hair neatly 
curled, and a clean tucker put in her frock, she 
would repair to the Roberts establishment, stand 
on her tiptoes, cautiously ring the bell, and await 
with beating heart the arrival of the housemaid, 
to whom she would say, with the utmost polite- 
ness of which she was capable : 

" If you please, Mamma's compliments, and 
how is Mrs. Roberts And if she is as well as can 
be expected, do you think I might see the new 
baby ? " 

And then, if fortune favored her, which it usu- 
ally did, she would be led up the staircase and 
into a shaded room, which seemed pervaded by a 
solemn but beautiful stillness which made her feel 
as if she wanted to be a good little girl always. 
And Mrs. Roberts, who perhaps was not really a 
specially handsome person at all, but who looked 
somehow rather angelic, would hold out her hand 
and say gently : 



A Confidence Betrayed 93 

"How do you do, my dear? Have you come 
to see the new baby ? ' 

And she would answer in a voice full of respect- 
ful emotion : 

" Yes, if you please, Mrs. Roberts. Mamma 
said I might ask you if I could see it if you are 
as well as can be expected and I may only stay a 
few minutes for fear I should bother you." 

" Give my regards to your mamma, love, and 
say I am getting on very nicely, and the baby is 
a little boy. Nurse will let you look at him." 

Oh, to stand beside that lovely bundle and look 
down at it reverently, as it lay upon the nurse's 
knee ! Reverence and adoration mingled with 
awe were the pervading emotions in her small 
mind. Reverence for Mrs. Roberts and awe of a 
stately mystery in the shaded room, which made 
it feel rather like a church, reverence for the 
nurse who knew all about new babies, reverence 
for the new baby, whose newness made him seem 
such a potentate, and adoration pure, deep adora- 
tion of him as a Baby. 

As years before she had known thoughts which 
even her mind could not have known words to 
frame, so in these days I well remember that she 
felt emotions her child-thoughts could give no 
shape to, and which were still feelings which 
deeply moved her. She was only a child, who 
had been kept a child by those who loved her, 



94 The One I Knew the Best of All 

who had been treated always as a child, and 
who was not in any sense old beyond her brief 
years. And yet my memory brings clearly to me 
that by the atmosphere of these shaded rooms she 
was moved and awed as she was later by the at- 
mosphere of other rooms shaded by blinds drawn 
down and by the mystery of another stillness- 
a more awful stillness a colder one, in which peo- 
ple always stood weeping as they looked down 
at Something which \vas not a life beginning, but 
a life's end. 

She was too much a little girl to know then that 
before the shaded stillness of both chambers the 
human nature of her stood hushed and reverent, 
confronting Mystery, and the Unanswered Ques- 
tion before which ages have stood hushed just 
as she did, just as she did though she was only 
seven years old. She knew no less than all the 
world. 

If the nurse was a kind one she was allowed to 
look at the baby's feet, and perhaps to kiss them. 
Such tiny feet, so pink and tender, and so given 
to curling up and squirming ! 

" Aren't they weenty," she would say, clasping 
her hands, " and isn't he beautiful ! Oh, / wish he 
was mine ! ' 

The unbiassed opinion of maturer years leads 
me to a tardy conviction that the new babies were 
not beautiful, that they were painfully creased and 



A Confidence Betrayed 95 

grievously red, and had frequently a weird air of 
eld combined with annoyance ; that they had no 
hair and no noses, and no individuality except to 
the Mrs. Roberts of the occasion, who saw in them 
the gifts and graces of the gods. (This being the 
lovely boon of Nature, whom all women of earth 
may kneel and bless that she, in some strange, 
gentle moment, has given them this thing.) 

But it was the serious belief of the Small Per- 
son that, a new baby was always Beautiful, and 
she could not possibly have understood the creat- 
ure who insinuated, even with the most cautious 
and diplomatic mildness, that it was not. No, 
that would have been striking at the foundations 
of the universe. 

And there were Nurses who let her hold the 
new baby. She was so careful and so full of ten- 
der respect that I think anyone might have trusted 
her even with twins. When she sat on a low 
chair and held the white draperied, faintly mov- 
ing bundle which was a new-born human thing, 
she was an unformed, yearning Mother-creature, 
her little breast as warm with brooding instincts 
as a small bird-mother covering her first nest. 

o 

She did not know this she was too young but 
it was true. 

i 

She was walking slowly round the Square one 
lovely summer evening, just after tea (Nursery 
breakfasts were at eight, dinners at one, tea at 



96 The One I Knew the Best of All 

six), and she had as her companion the little girl 
who was known as her " Best Friend." One had 
a best Doll, a best frock, and a best friend. Her 
best friend was a very sensitive, shy little girl 
with lovely brown velvet eyes. Her name was 
Annie, and their souls were one. 

As they walked they saw at length a respect- 
able elderly person dressed in black, and carrying 
something in her arms. It was something white 
and with long drapery depending from it. She 
was walking slowly up and down as if taking the 
air. 

" There is a lady with a baby," exclaimed the 
Small Person. " And it looks like a new one." 

4i It is a new one," said Annie. " She isn't a 
Square lady, I wonder who she is." 

It was not easy to tell. She was no one they 
knew, and yet there she was walking quietly up 
and down, giving a promenade to a new baby. 

There was no doubt about the matter, she must 
be approached. They eyed her wistfully askance, 
and then looked at each other with the same 
thought in their eyes. 

" Would she think we were rude if we spoke to 
her?' suggested the Small Person, almost in a 
whisper. 

" Oh, we don't know her," said the little Best 
Friend. " She might think it very rude." 

" Do you think she would ? ' said the Small 



A Confidence Betrayed 97 

Person. " She looks kind," examining her with 
anxiety. 

" Let us walk past her," said the Best Friend. 
So they walked past her slowly, respectfully re- 
garding the new baby. The elderly lady who 
carried it did not look vicious in fact, she looked 
amiable, and after they had walked past her twice 
she began to smile at them. This was so encour- 
aging that they slackened their pace and the Best 
Friend gave the companion of her soul a little 
" nudge " with her elbow. 

" Let's ask her," she said. " You do it." 

" No, you." 

"I daren't." 

" I daren't, either." 

" Oh, do. It's a perfectly new one." 

" Oh, you do it. See, how nice she looks." 

They were quite near her, and just at that junc- 
ture she smiled again so encouragingly that the 
Small Person stopped before her. 

"If you please," she said, "isn't that a new 
baby ? " 

She felt herself quite red in the face at her 
temerity, and there was no doubt an honest im- 
ploring in her eyes, for the lady smiled again. 

" Yes," she answered. " Do you want to look 
at it?" 

" Oh, yes, please," they both chimed at once. 
" We do so love them." 
7 



98 The One I Knew the Best of All 



The baby's face was covered with a white lace 
veil. The lady bent toward them, and lifting it, 
revealed the charms beneath. 

" There," she said. 

And they gasped with joy and cried together: 



&2 




mm 

IliM . ! :-/jinf 

/(/. -. 



'*4# 



liiMfm 

: W \ '"- '' '' ^ ' ' / i'f' ' ' ' V'T - Ifev 



^ 



-/ i ^^ ' ' -,: 

/ / / .: 




" Oh, isn't it a beautiful one ! ' though it was 
exactly like all the others, having neither hair, 
features, nor complexion. 

" Is it a very new one ? ' they asked. " How 
new?' And their hearts were rejoiced with the 
information that it was as new as could possibly 



A Confidence Betrayed 99 

be compatible with its being allowed to breathe 
the air of Heaven. 

In reflecting upon the conduct of this elderly 
person who was probably a sort of superior 
monthly nurse I have always felt obliged to 
class her with the jocular Park policeman who, 
in the buoyancy of his spirits, caused the blood of 
the Small Person to congeal in her infancy by the 
sprightly information that she would be taken to 
prison if she fell on the grass through the back of 
the seat. 

This lady also regarded the innocence of tender 
years as an amusing thing. Though how with 
the adoring velvet eyes of the Best Friend fixed 
trustingly on her, and with the round face of the 
Small Person burning with excited delight as she 
talked it was quite possible for her to play her 
comedy with entire composure, I do not find it 
easy to explain. 

" Are you so very fond of babies ? " she inquired. 

" We love them better than anything in the 
world." 

" Better than dolls?" 

" Oh, thousands better ! ' exclaimed the Small 
Person. 

" But dolls don't cry," said the stranger. 

" If I had a baby," the Small Person protested, 
" it wouldn't cry, because I should take such care 
of it." 



ioo The One I Knew the Best of All 

" Would you like a baby of your own ? ' 

1 feel sure the round face must have become 
scarlet. 

" I would give worlds and worlds for one ! ' 
with a lavishness quite unbiassed by the limits of 
possession. 

The stranger was allowing the friends to walk 
slowly by her, one on either side. In this way 
there seemed to be established some relationship 
with the baby. 

" Would you like me to give you this one ? ' 
she asked, quite seriously. 

" Give it to me ? " breathless. " Oh, you conldnt" 

" I think I could, if you would be sure to take 
care of it." 

" Oh, oh ! ' with rapturous incredulity. " But 
its mamma wouldn't let you ! ' 

" Yes, I think she would," said the lady, Avith 
reflective composure. " You see, she has enough 
of them!" 

The Small Person gasped ! Enough of new ba- 
bies? There was a riotous splendor in such a 
suggestion which seemed incredible. She could 
not help being guilty of the rudeness of regarding 
the strange lady, in private, with doubt. She was 
capable of believing almost anything else - - but 
not that. 

" Ah ! ' she sighed, " you you're making fun 
of me." 



A Confidence Betrayed 101 

" No," replied this unprincipled elderly person, 
" I am not at all. They are very tiresome when 
there are a great many of them." She spoke as 
if they were fleas. " What would you do with 
this one if I gave it to you ? ' 

At this thrilling suggestion the Small Person 
quite lost her head. 

" I would wash it every morning," she said, her 
words tumbling over each other in her desire to 
prove her fitness for the boon. " I would wash it 
in warm water in a little bath and with a big soft 
sponge and Windsor soap and I would puff it 
all over with powder and dress it and undress 
it and put it to sleep and walk it about the room 
and trot it on my knees and give it milk." 

" It takes a great deal of milk," said the wicked 
elderly person, who was revelling in an orgy of 
jocular crime. 

" I would ask Mamma to let me take it from 
the milkman. I'm sure she would, I would give 
it as much as it wanted, and it would sleep with 
me, and I would" buy it a rattle, and- 

" I see you know how to take care of it," said 
the respectable criminal. " You shall have it." 

" But how can its Mamma spare it ? " asked the 
small victim, fearfully. " Are you sure she could 
spare it ?" 

" Oh, yes, she can spare it. Of course I must 
take it back to her to-night and tell her you want 



IO2 The One I Knew the Best of All 

it, and I have promised it to you ; but to-morrow 
evening you can have it." 

Since the dawning of the Children's Century 
young things have become much better able to 
defend themselves, in the sense of being less 
easily imposed on. I believe that only an Eng- 
lish child, and a child brought up in the English 
nursery of that period, could have been sufficient- 
ly unsophisticated to believe this Machiavellian 
Monthly Nurse. In that day one's private rev- 
erence for and confidence in the grown-up per- 
son were things which dominated existence. A 
grown-up person represented such knowledge 
and dignity and power. People who could crush 
you to the earth by telling you that you were 
"a rude little girl," or "an impertinent child," 
and who could send you to bed, or give you ex- 
tra lessons, or deprive you of your pudding at 
dinner, wore an air of omnipotence. To suggest 
that a grown-up person " a grown-up lady ' or 
gentleman could " tell a story," would have been 
sheer iconoclasm. And to doubt the veracity of 
a respectable elderly person entrusted with a new 
baby would have been worse than sacrilegious. 
The two friends did not leave her side until she 
left the Square to take the baby home, and when 
she went, all details had been arranged between 
them, and Heaven itself seemed to have opened. 

The next evening, at precisely a quarter-past 



A Confidence Betrayed 103 

seven, the two were to go to the corner of a cer- 
tain street, and there they would find the elderly 
person with the new baby and a bundle of its 
clothes, which were to be handed over with cere- 
mony to the new proprietor. 

It was to the Small Person the baby was to be 
given, though in the glow of generous joy and 
affection it was an understood thing between 
them that the Best Friend was to be a partner 
in the blissful enterprise. 

How did they live through the next day ? How 
did they learn their lessons ? How could they 
pin themselves down to geography and grammar 
and the multiplication table? The Small Per- 
son's brain reeled, and new babies swam before 
her eyes. She felt as if the wooden form she sat 
on were a species of throne. 

Momentarily she had been brought down to 
earth by the fact that, when she had gone to her 
Mamma, glowing and exalted from the interview 
with the elderly person, she had found herself 
confronting doubt as to the seriousness of that 
lady's intentions. 

" My dear child," said her Mamma, smiling at 
her radiant little countenance, " she did not mean 
it! she was only joking!' 

"Oh, no!' the Small Person insisted. "She 
was quite in earnest, Mamma ! She really was. 
She did not laugh the least bit. And she was such 



IO4 The One I Knew the Best of All 

a nice lady nd the baby was such a beautiful little 
new one ! I asked her if she was laughing at me, 
and she said, ' No,' she was not. And I asked her 
if the baby's Mamma could spare it, and she said 
she thought she could, because she had enough of 
them. She was such a kind lady." 

Somehow she felt that her Mamma and the 
governess were not convinced, but she was too 
much excited and there was too much exaltation 
in her mood to allow of her being really discour- 
aged, at least until after the fateful hour of ap- 
pointment. Before that hour arrived she and her 
friend were at the corner of the street which had 
been named. 

"It's rather a common street, isn't it?" the two 
said to each other. " It was funny that she 
should tell us to come to a back street. That 
baby could not live here, of course, and neither 
could she. I wonder why she didn't bring it back 
into the Square ? ' 

It was decidedly a back street being a sort of 
continuation of the one whose row of cottages the 
Small Person could see from the Nursery win- 
dow. It was out of the question that the baby 
could belong to such a neighborhood. The houses 
were factory people's cottages- -the kind of 
houses where domestic differences were settled 
with the fire-irons. 

The two children walked up and down, talking 



A Confidence Betrayed 105 

in excited under-tones. Perhaps she had men- 
tioned this street because it was near the Square ; 
perhaps she lived on the Crescent, which was not 
far off ; perhaps she was afraid it would be trou- 
blesome to carry the baby and the bundle at the 
same time, and this corner was nearer than the 
Square itself. 

They walked up and down in earnest faith. 
Nothing would have induced them to lose sight 
of the corner for a second. They confined them- 
selves and their promenade to a distance of about 
ten yards. They went backward and forward like 
squirrels in a cage. 

Every ten minutes they consulted together as 
to who could pluck up the courage to ask some 
passer-by the time. The passers-by were all back 
street people. Sometimes they did not know the 
time, but at last the children found out that the 
quarter-past seven was passed. 

" Perhaps the baby was -asleep," said one of 
them. " And she had to wait until it w r akened 
up before she could put on its bonnet and 
cloak." 

So they walked up and down again. 

" Mamma said she wasn't in earnest," said the 
Small Person ; " but she was, wasn't she, Annie? ' 

" Oh ! yes," said Annie. " She didn't laugh the 
least bit when she talked." 

" The house at the corner is a little nicer than 



io6 The One I Knew the Best of All 

the others," the Small Person suggested. " Per- 
haps it is very nice inside. Do you think she 
might live there ? If she did we could knock at 
the door and tell her we are here." 

But the house was really not possible. She 
must live somewhere else with that baby. 

It seemed as if they had walked for hours, and 
talked for months, and reasoned for years, when 
they were startled by the booming, regular sound 
of a church clock. 

" That's St. Philip's bell," exclaimed the Small 
Person. " What is it striking ? ' 

They stood still and counted. 

" One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight." 

The two friends looked at each other blankly. 

" Do you think," they exclaimed simultaneous- 
ly, " she isn't coming?' 

" But but she said she would," said the Small 
Person, with desperate hopefulness. " If she 
didn't come it would be a story ! ' 

" Yes," said the Best Friend, " she would have 
told a story ! ' 

This seemed an infamy impossible and disre- 
spectful to contemplate. It was so impossible that 
they braced themselves and began to walk up and 
down again. Perhaps they had made some mis- 
take- -there had been some misunderstanding 
about the time the corner the street anything 
but the honorable intentions of the elderly person. 



A Confidence Betrayed 107 

They tried to comfort each other to be sus- 
tained. They talked, they walked, they watched 
-until St. Philip's clock boomed half-past eight. 
Their bedtime was really eight o'clock. They 
had stayed out half an hour beyond it. They 
dare stay no longer. They stopped their \valk 
on the fated corner itself and looked into each 
other's eyes. 

" She Jiasrit come ! ' they said, unconscious of 
the obviousness of the remark. 

" She said she would," repeated the Small Per- 
son. 

" It must be the wrong corner," said the Best 
Friend. 

" It must be," replied the Small Person, deso- 
lately. " Or the baby's mamma couldn't spare 
it. It was such a beautiful baby perhaps she 
could not ! ' 

" And the lady did not like to come and tell us," 
said the Best Friend. " Perhaps we shall see her 
in the Square again some time." 

" Perhaps we shall," said the Small Person, 
dolefully. " It's too late to stay out any longer. 
Let us go home." 

They went home sadder but not much wiser 
little girls. They did not realize that the respect- 
able elderly person had had a delightful, relatable 
joke at the expense of their innocent little mater- 
nal souls. 



io8 The One I Knew the Best of All 

Evening after evening they walked the Square 
together, watching. But they never saw the new 
baby again, or the sardonic elderly female who 
carried it. 

It is only a thing not far away from Paradise- 
not yet acclimatized to earth who can so trust- 
ingly believe and be so far befooled. 



CHAPTER VII. 

The Secretaire 

I WONDER why it was called the Secretaire? 
Perhaps it had resources the Small Person never 
knew of. It looked like a large old-fashioned ma- 
hogany book-case, with a big drawer which formed 
a ledge, and with a cupboard below. Until she 
was seven or eight years old she did not " dis- 
cover" the Secretaire. She knew that it existed, 
of course, but she did not know what its values 
were. She used to look at its rows and rows of 
books and sigh, because she knew they were 
"grown-up books" and she thought there was 
nothing in them which could interest her. 

They were such substantially bound and serious- 
looking books. No one could have suspected 
them of containing stories at least, no inexperi- 
enced inspector. There were rows of volumes 
called " The Encyclopaedia," rows of stout vol- 
umes of Blackwood's Magazine, a row of poets, a 
row of miscellaneous things with unprepossess- 
ing bindings, and two rows of exceedingly ugly 
brown books, which might easily have been sus- 
pected of being arithmetics, only that it was of 



no The One I Knew the Best of All 

course incredible that any human creature, how- 
ever lost, could have been guilty of the unseemly 
brutality of buying arithmetics by the dozen. 

The Small Person used to look at them some- 
times with hopeless, hungry eyes. It seemed so 
horribly wicked that there should be shelves of 
books shelves full of them which offered noth- 
ing to a starving creature. She was a starving 
creature in those days, with a positively wolfish 
appetite for books, though no one knew about it 
or understood the anguish of its gnawings. It 
must be plainly stated that her longings were 
not for " improving' books. The cultivation she 
gained in those days was gained quite uncon- 
sciously, through the workings of a sort of rabies 
with which she had been infected from birth. At 
three years old she had begun a life-long chase 
after the Story. She may have begun it earlier, 
but my clear recollections seem to date from 
Herod, the King, to whom her third year intro- 
duced her through the medium of the speckled 
Testament. 

In those days, I think, the Children's Century 
had not begun. Children were not regarded as 
embryo intellects, whose growth it is the pleasure 
and duty of intelligent maturity to foster and pro- 
tect. Morals and manners were attended to, des- 
perate efforts were made to conquer their natural 
disinclination to wash their hands and faces, it 



The Secretaire 1 1 1 

was a time-honored custom to tell them to "make 
less noise," and I think everybody knelt down in 
his night-gown and said his prayers every night 
and morning. I wish I knew who was the origin- 
ator of the nursery verse which was a kind of 
creed : 

" Speak when you're spoken to, 

Come when you're called, 
Shut the door after you, 
And do as you're told. 

The rhyme and metre were, perhaps, not fault- 
less, but the sentiments were without a flaw. 

A perfectly normal child knew what happened 
in its own nursery and the nurseries of its cousins 
and juvenile friends; it knew something of the 
romances of Mrs. Barbauld and Miss Edgeworth, 
and the adventures related in Peter Parley's 
" Annual." Religious aunts possibly gave it hor- 
rible little books containing memoirs of dreadful 
children who died early of complicated diseases, 
whose lingering developments they enlivened by 
giving unlimited moral advice and instruction to 
their parents and immediate relatives, seeming, 
figuratively speaking, to implore them to " go 
and do likewise," and perishing to appropriate 
texts. The Small Person suffered keen private 
pangs of conscience, and thought she was a wicked 
child, because she did not like those books and 



H2 The One I Knew the Best of All 

had a vague feeling of disbelief in the children. 
It seemed probable that she might be sent to per- 
dition and devoured by fire and brimstone because 
of this irreligious indifference, but she could not 
overcome it. But I am afraid the Small Person 
was not a normal child. Still she really could not 
help it, and she has been sufficiently punished, 
poor thing, even while she has been unduly re- 
warded. She happened to be born, as a clever 
but revoltingly candid and practical medical man 
once told her, with a cerebral tumor of the Ima- 
gination. 

Little girls did not revel in sumptuous libraries 
then. Books were birthday or Christmas pres- 
ents, and were read and re-read, and lent to other 
little girls as a great favor. 

The Small Person's chase after the Story was 
thought to assume the proportions of a crime. 

" Have you any books you could lend me?" she 
always ended by asking a new acquaintance. 

" That child has a book again ! " she used to hear 
annoyed voices exclaim, when being sent up or 
down stairs, on some errand, she found something 
to read on the way, and fell through the tempter. 
It was so positively unavoidable and inevitable 
that one should forget, and sink down on the 
stairs somewhere to tear the contents out of the 
heart of a few pages, and it was so horrible, and 
made one's heart leap and thump so guiltily, when 



The Secretaire 113 

one heard the voice, and realized how bad, and 
idle, and thoughtless, and disobedient one was. 

It was like being conquered by a craving for 
drink or opium. It was being a story-maniac. 

It made her rude, too, and it was an awful thing 
to be rude ! She was a well-mannered enough 
child, but when she went to play with a friend 
in a strange nursery, or sitting-room, how was it 
possible to resist just looking at a book lying on a 
table ? Figure to yourself a beautiful, violently 
crimson, or purple, or green book, ornamented 
with gorgeous, flaring designs in gilt, and with a 
seductive title in gilt letters on the back, and ima- 
gine how it could be possible that it should not 
fill one's veins with fever. 

If people had just understood and had allowed 
her to take such books and gallop through them 
without restraint. (She always galloped through 
her books, she could not read them with reason- 
able calmness.) But it was rude to want to read 
when people wanted to talk or play with you, and 
so one could only breathlessly lift the corner of a 
leaf and devour half a dozen words during some 
momentary relief from the other person's eye. 
And it was torment. And notwithstanding her 
sufferings, she knew that it was her fate to be fre- 
quently discussed among her friends as a little 
girl who was rude enough " to read when she 

comes to see you." 
8 



U4 1 he One I Knew the Best of All 

As she did not develop with years into an en- 
tirely unintelligent or unthinking person, there 
may lie a shade of encouragement to anxious 
parents in the fact that she was not conscious of 
any thirst for " improving " reading. She wanted 
stories any kind of stories every kind any- 
thing from a romance to a newspaper anecdote. 
She was a simple, omnivorous creature. She had 
no precocious views about her mind or her intel- 
lectual condition. She reflected no more on her 
mind than she did on her plump legs and arms 
not so much, because they were frequently made 
red and smarting by the English east winds and 
it did not occur to her that she had an intellectual 
condition. She went to school because all little 
girls did, and she learned her lessons because only 
in that manner could she obtain release at twelve 
in the morning and four in the afternoon. She 
seemed always to know how to read, and spell- 
ing had no difficulties for her ; she rather liked ge- 
ography, she thought grammar dull, and she ab- 
horred arithmetic. Roman and Grecian and 
English history, up to the times of the Georges, 
she was very fond of. They were the Story she 
was in chase of. Gods and goddesses, legends 
and wars, Druids and ancient Britons, painted 
blue, worshipping in their groves, and fighting 
with their clubs and spears against the splendid 
Romans in their chariots these fed the wolf 



The Secretaire 115 

which gnawed her innocent vitals. The poor, 
half-savage Briton, walking in wonder through 
the marvellous city of his captors, and saying 
mournfully, " How could you who have all this 
splendor wish to conquer and take from me such 
a poor country as mine' -this touched her heart. 
Boadicea the Queen was somehow a wild, beauti- 
ful, majestic figure Canute upon the sea-shore, 
commanding the sea to recede, provided the 
drama and Alfred, wandering in the forest, and 
burning the cakes in the neat-herd's hut, was 
comedy and tragedy at once, as his kinghood 
stood rebuked before the scolding woman, ignor- 
ant of his power. Henry the Eighth, Elizabeth 
and Bloody Mary, Richard Cceur de Lion, Rich- 
ard the Third, and the poor little Princes in the 
Tower one could read their stories again and 
again ; but where the Georges began romance 
seemed to fade away, and the Small Person was 
guilty of the base treason of being very slight- 
ly interested in the reign of Her Most Gracious 
Majesty the Queen. 

" 1 don't care about the coal and cotton reigns," 
she said. " They are not interesting. Nothing 
happens." Lempriere's " Classical Dictionary ' 
w^as a treasure to be clutched at any moment to 
keep in a convenient corner of the desk, so that, 
when one put one's head under the lid to look for 
pens or pencils, one could snatch just one scrap 



n6 The One I Knew the Best of All 

of a legend about a god or a goddess changed 
into something as a punishment or to escape 
somebody or other. 

Remembering these ill-satisfied hungers, her 
own childhood being a thing of the past, and the 
childhood of young things of her own waiting for 
its future, she gave them books as she gave them 
food, and found it worthy of note that, having 
literature as daily bread and all within reach be- 
fore them, they chose the "improving' things of 
their own free will. It interested her to ponder 
on the question of whether it was because they 
were never starving and ravenous, or that instruc- 
tion of to-day is made interesting, or whether 
they were by nature more intelligent than herself. 

It was an indescribably dreary day when she 
discovered the gold mine in the Secretaire. I 
have a theory that no one can really know how 
dreary a rainy day can be until they have spent 
one in an English manufacturing town. She did 
not live at Seedley at that time, and as in her rec- 
ollections of the Back Garden of Eden the sun 
always seemed to have been shining on roses and 
apple-blossoms, in Islington Square it seemed al- 
ways to be raining on stone pavements and slate 
roofs shining with the wet. One did not judge 
of the weather by looking at the sky. The sky 
was generally gray when it was not filled with 
dirty but beautiful woolly-white clouds, with 



The Secretaire 117 

small patches of deep blue between. It was the 
custom to judge what was happening by looking 
at the slates on the roofs. There seemed to be 
such lots of slates to look out at when one went 
to a window. 

" The slates are quite wet ! ' was the awful sen- 
tence which doomed to despair many a plan of 
pleasure. They were always wet on the days 
when one was to be taken somewhere to do some- 
thing interesting. 

Everything was wet on the day when she found 
the gold mine. When she went to the Nursery 
window (the Nursery being a back room on the 
third story) she looked down on the flags of wet 
back yards her own back yard and those of the 
neighbors. Manchester back yards are never 
beautiful or enlivening, but when the flagstones 
are dark and shining, when moisture makes din- 
gier the always dingy whitewashed walls, and 
the rain splashes on their coping, they wear an 
aspect to discourage the soul. The back yards 
of the houses of the Square were divided by a 
long flagged passage from the back yards of the 
smaller houses in what w r as called a " back street." 
From the Nursery one looked down on their roofs 
and chimneys, and was provided with a depressing 
area of wet slates. It was not a cheering outlook. 

The view from the Sitting-room was no more 
inspiring and was more limited. It was on the 



n8 The One I Knew the Best of All 

ground floor and at the back also, and only saw 
the wet flagstones. She tried it and retired. The 
Drawing-room looked out on a large square ex- 
panse of gravel enclosed by houses whose smoke- 
grimed faces stared at one with blank, wet win- 
dow eyes which made one low-spirited beyond 
compare. She tried that also, and breaking down 
under it, crept upstairs. It was in a room above 
the Drawing-room that the Secretaire had its 
place, and it was on turning in despair from the 
window there, that her eye fell upon its rows of 
uninviting-looking books. 

Before that particular window there was a 
chair, and it was a habit of hers to go and kneel 
by it with her elbows on its seat and her chin on 
her hands while she looked at the clouds. 

This was because through all her earlier years 
she had a queer sense of nearness to the sky 
and of companionship with the clouds when she 
looked up at them. When they were fleecy and 
beautiful and floated in the blue, she imagined 
them part of a wonderful country, and fancied 
herself running and climbing over them. When 
there was only a dull lead-colored expanse, she 
used to talk to it in a whisper, expostulating, ar- 
guing, imploring. And this she did that day. 

" Oh ! " she whispered, " do open and let me see 
some blue, please do ! If you please. You can do 
it if you like. You might do it ! I would do it 



The Secretaire 119 

for you if I was a sky. Just a piece of blue and 
some sun just an island of blue ! Do! Do! Do!' 

But it would not and did not. The rain came 
drizzling down and the slates became wetter and 
wetter. It was deadly deadly dull. 

The Nursery Sofa, the Green Armchair, the 
very Doll itself seemed to have the life taken out 
of them. The Doll sat in her chair in the Nur- 
sery and glared in a glassy-eyed way into space. 
She was nobody at all but a Doll. Mary Queen 
of Scots, Evangeline, and the Aztec royalties 
seemed myriads of miles away from her. They 
were in the Fourth Dimension of Space. She 
was stuffed with sawdust, her nose was a blunt 
dab of wax, her arms were green kid, her legs 
dangled, her toes turned in, and she wore an 
idiotic wig. How could a Small Person " pre- 
tend ' with a thing like that ! And the slates 
were wet wet wet ! She rose from her kneel- 
ing posture before the chair and wandered across 
the room toward the Secretaire, to stare up at 
the books. 

" I wish I had something to read ! " she said, 
wofully. " I wish there was something for me to 
read in the Secretaire. But they are just a lot of 
fat, grown-up books." 

The bound volumes of Blackwood's Magazine 
always seemed specially annoying to her, because 
there were bits of red in the binding which might 



I2O The One I Knew the Best of All 

have suggested liveliness. But " Blackwood's 
Magazine ! ' What a title ! Not a hope of a 
story in that. At that period cheerfulness in 
binding seemed to promise something, and the 
title did the rest. 

But she had reached the climax of childish 
ennui. Something must be done to help her to 
endure it. 

She stared for a few moments, and then went 
to another part of the room for a chair. It must 
have been heavy for her, because English chairs 
of mahogany were not trifles. She dragged, or 
pulled, or carried it over to the Secretaire. She 
climbed on it, and from there climbed on to the 
ledge, which seemed at a serious distance from 
the floor. Her short legs hung dangling as she 
sat, and she was very conscious that she should 
tumble off if she were not careful. But at last 
she managed to open one of the glass doors, and 
then, with the aid of cautious movement, the 
other one. And then she began to examine the 
books. There were a few just a few with lively 
bindings, and of course these were the first she 
took down. There was one in most alluring pale 
blue and gold. It was called, " The Keepsake," 
or " The Garland," or " The Floral Tribute," or 
something of that order. When she opened it 
she found it contained verses and pictures. The 
verses were beautifully printed plaints about 



The Secretaire 121 

ladies' eyes and people's hearts. There were 
references to " marble brows," and " snowy bos- 
oms," and " ruby lips," but somehow these charms 
seemed to ramble aimlessly through the lines, 
and never collect themselves together and form a 
person one could be interested or see a story in. 
The Small Person feverishly chased the Story 
through pages of them, but she never came within 
hailing distance of it. Even the pictures did not 
seem real. They were engravings of wonderful 
ladies with smooth shoulders, from which rather 
boisterous zephyrs seemed to be snatching airily 
flying scarves. They all had large eyes, high fore- 
heads, exceedingly arched eyebrows, and ring- 
lets, and the gentleman who wrote the verses 
about them mentioned an ardent wish to " touch 
his lute ' in their praise. Their Christian names 
were always written under them, and nobody ever 
was guilty of anything less Byronic than Leonora, 
or Zulieka, or Haidee, or lone, or Irene. This 
seemed quite natural to the Small Person, as it 
would really have been impossible to imagine 
any one of them being called Jane, or Sarah, or 
Mary Anne. They did not look like it. But, 
also, they did not look like a story. 

The Small Person simply hated them as she 
realized what fraudulent pretences they were. 
They filled her with loathing and rage. 

She was capable of strange, silent, uncontrol- 



122 The One I Knew the Best of All 

lable rages over certain things. The baffled chase 
after the Story was one of them. She felt red 
and hot when she thrust back the blue and gold 
book into its place. 

" You are a Beast ! " she muttered. " A Beast 
-Beast- -Beast ! You look as if you were some- 
thing to read and you're nothing ! ' 

It would have been a pleasure to her to kick 
the Keepsake all over the room, and dance on it. 
But it was her Mamma's book. The next pretty 
binding contained something of the same kind. 
It enclosed the " Countess of Blessington," the 
" Hon. Mrs. Norton," and " L. E. L." The first 
two ladies did not interest her, because they 
looked too much like the Eudoras and Irenes, but 
somehow L. E. L. caused her to pause. It seemed 
curious that a young lady should be called L. E. 
L., but there was something attractive in her 
picture. She was a slender little young lady in a 
white muslin frock and a very big belt and buckle, 
and there was something soft and prettily dreamy 
in her small face. The Small Person did not 
know why she looked like a real creature, and 
made one feel vaguely sad, but it was very thrill- 
ing to discover later that she was like Alice Ben- 
bolt that she also had been part of a sort of 
story and that, like Alice, she 

"lay under the stone." 



The Secretaire 123 

It was when she had been put back on the shelf 
that the Small Person was driven to take down a 
volume of Blackwood' s. 

I wonder how much depended upon her tak- 
ing down that particular volume. I am more 
than inclined to think that it was absolutely 
necessary that she should have things to read. 
I am also aware that no one knew how fierce 
her childish longings were, and it would have 
occurred to nobody about her that she had 
any longings unfulfilled at all, unless it was a 
desire for more "sweeties" than would have 
been good for her. The kindly, gentle people 
who loved her and took care of her thought 
" Peter Parley's Annual ' enough for any little 
boy or girl. 

Why not? It was the juvenile literature pro- 
vided for that day, and many children throve on 
it. She was not an intellectually fevered-look- 
ing Small Person at all. She was a plump, red- 
cheeked little girl, who played vigorously, and 
had a perfect appetite for oatmeal-porridge, roast 
mutton, and rice pudding. 

And yet I can imagine that, under some circum- 
stances, a small, imperfect, growing thing, de- 
voured by some rage of hunger it cannot reason 
about or understand, and which is forever unsatis- 
fied, might, through its cravings, develop some 
physical fever which might end by stilling the 



124 The One I Knew the Best of All 

ever-working brain. But this may only be the 
fancy of an imaginative mind. 

The Blackivood was a big book and heavy. She 
opened it on her knee and it opened at a Story ! 

She knew it was a story, because there were so 
many short lines. That meant conversation she 
called it " talking." If you saw solid blocks of 
printed lines, it was not very promising, but if 
you saw short lines and broken spaces, that meant 
" talking ' -and you had your Story. 

Why do I remember no more of that story than 
that it was about a desolate moorland with an un- 
used, half-forgotten well on it, and that a gentle- 
man (who cannot have been a very interesting 
character, as he is not remembered clearly) being 
considered superfluous by somebody, was disposed 
of and thrown into it in the role of a Body? It 
was his body which was interesting, and not him- 
self, and my impression is that the story was not 
specially fascinating but it was a Story, and if 
there was one in the fat volumes there must be 
others and the explorer looked with gloating 
eyes at the rows of fat volumes two whole rows 
of them ! 

She took down others, and opening them, saw 
with joy more " talking." There were stories in 
all of them some which seemed to be continued 
from month to month. There was a long one 
called " The Diary of a Physician," another called 



The Secretaire 125 

" Ten Thousand a Year " this last, she gathered 
in a few glances, contained the history of a person 
called Tittlebat Titmouse and was about a beau- 
tiful Kate Aubrey, and her virtuous but unfortu- 
nate family and about a certain Lady Cecilia- 
and, oh ! the rapture of it ! 

Her cheeks grew hotter and hotter, she read 
fast and furiously. She forgot that she was 
perched on the ledge, and that her legs dan- 
gled, and that she might fall. She was perched 
in Paradise she had no legs she could not 



fall. No one could fall from a Secretaire filled 
with books, which might all of them contain 
Stories ! 

Before long she climbed up and knelt upon the 
ledge so that she could be face to face with her 
treasures, and reach even to the upper shelves. 
With beating heart she took down volumes that 
were not Blackwood's, in the wild hope that even 
they might contain riches also. She was an excit- 
able creature, and her hands trembled as she 
opened them. Across a lifetime I remember that 
her breath came quickly, and she had a queer feel- 
ing in her chest. There were books full of poetry, 
and, oh, Heaven, the poems seemed to be stories, 
too ! 

There was a thing about an Ancient Mariner 
with a glittering eye, another about St. Agnes's 
Eve, another about a Scotch gentleman called 



126 Tke One I Knew the Best of All 

Marmion, others about some Fire Worshippers, 
a Peri at the gate of Eden, a Veiled Prophet, a 
Corsair, and a splendid long one about a young 
man whose name was Don Juan. And then a 
very stout book with plays in it, in queer old- 
fashioned English. Plays were stories. There 
were stories about persons called " Othello," 
" The Merchant of Venice," " Two Gentlemen of 
Verona," " Romeo and Juliet," and a world of 
others. She gasped with joy. It would take 
months to finish them ! 

It was so tragic to finish a book. 

" 1 wish I had something to read," she used to 
say often. 

" Where is that book I saw you with yester- 
day ? " 

" I've finished it," she used to answer, rather 
sheepishly, because she knew they would reply : 

" Then you can't have read it properly. You 
couldn't have finished it in such a short time. 
You must skip. Read it again." 

Who wanted to read a thing again when a hun- 
ger for novelty was in them ? 

The top row of the shelves looked so unprom- 
ising that she was almost afraid to spoil the 
happiness by touching the books. 

They looked ancient and very like arithmetics. 
They were bound in ugly grayish boards with a 
strip of brown down the back. 



The Secretaire 127 

She pulled herself up to read the titles. They 
all seemed to belong to one edition. The one her 
eyes seized on first was quite a shabby one. 

" The Fair Maid of Perth," she read. " Waver- 
ley Novels." 

Novels were stories ! " The Fair Maid of 
Perth." She snatched it from its place, she sat 
on the ledge once more with her feet dangling. 
" The Fair Maid of Perth." And all the rest were 
like it ! Why, one might read forever ! 

Were the slates still wet? Was the gravelled 
Square still sopping ? Did the flagged pavement 
still shine ? Was the Doll still staring in her 
chair nothing but a Sawdust Thing ? 

She knew nothing about any of them. Her 
feet dangled, her small face burned, she bounded 
to Perth with the Fair Maid. How long after- 
ward a certain big bell rang she did not know. 
She did not hear it. She heard nothing until a 
nursery maid came in and brought her back to 
earth. 

" You naughty girl, Miss Frances. The tea- 
bell has rung and you sitting here on your ma's 
Secretary with a book ! ' 

She gathered herself together and scrambled 
off the ledge. She went down to tea, and the 
thick slices of bread and butter deemed suitable 
to early youth but she had the gray and brown 
volume under her arm. 



128 The One I Knew the Best of AIL 

The governess looked at her with the cold eye 
of dignity and displeasure. 

" You have a book," she said. " Put it down. 
You are not allowed to read at table. It is very 
rude." 



CHAPTER VIII. 

T/ie Party 

THE Christmas holidays were a time of great 
festivity, and they began with the " Breaking- 
up." The " Breaking-up ' was a magnificent 
function, and was the opening and event of the 
season. 

" We're going to break up in two weeks," little 
girls of different schools said to each other ; " when 
are you going to break up ? ' 

The Breaking-up was the delightful ending of 
the school clays, and the rapturous beginning of 
the holidays, and it was properly celebrated by a 
party given by the ladies who were the proprie- 
tresses of the school. 

It was a glorious social event, looked forward 
to through all the year, but it was not entirely 
given up to the frivolous caperings of emanci- 
pated youth. It had, indeed, a utilitarian signifi- 
cance and importance in the minds of the host- 
esses. It was, in fact, not all cakes and ale, though 
cakes were plentiful and ale in the form of ne- 
gus and lemonade flowed freely. 

Not only the " young ladies and gentlemen " of 
9 



130 The One I Knew the Best of All 

the scholastic establishment were invited, but 
Mammas and Papas, and it was the Mammas and 
Papas who were the serious feature of the enter- 
tainment. The Papas did not always appear, but 
no Mamma was ever absent unless subdued bv 

./ 

mortal illness. Nothing less would have kept 
one away. Papas were deterred by much less 
serious reasons. 

Only an ex-pupil, chastened by the seriousness 
of years, could possibly describe the splendor of 
the scene. Until thus chastened, his adjectives 
would get the better of him. 

Something magic was done to the entire estab- 
lishment, which gave it a beautiful, awe-inspiring 
air of not being the same house, and of having 
nothing whatever to do with lessons ; in fact, with 
anything at all but approaching holidays. Car- 
pets were taken up, furniture was moved from one 
place to another, or whisked out of sight when it 
was in the way. Holly was hung and wreathed 
about pictures, there were pink and white paper 
roses, and from the centre of the ceiling of the 
transformed drawing-room there hung candidly a 
fine piece of mistletoe. Round this room, against 
the wall, sat the Mammas and such stray Papas as 
had been overcome by a sense of paternal duty or 
by domestic discipline. The Mammas were al- 
ways attired in their most imposing frocks. They 
were frocks about which there was nothing: frivo- 



The Party 131 

lous black, or gray, or purple, or brown silks or 
satins ; and if they wore caps which they usually 
did their caps were splendid. My impression is 
that the English mamma of that day dressed at 
twenty as she did at fifty, and that gayety and 
youth expressed themselves merely in caps, which 
ventured on white lace, and pink or blue ribbon, 
instead of black lace and purple or dark red. All 
Mammas appeared the same age to the Small Per- 
son, and were alike regarded with the reverence 
due to declining years. They formed an imposing 
phalanx at the " Breaking-up." 

" What are you going to wear at the Party ? ' 
every little girl asked every other little girl 
some time during the weeks before the festal oc- 
casion. 

What one wore was an exceedingly brief white, 
or pink, or blue, or mauve frock, exceedingly 
beautiful stockings, exceedingly new slippers, and 
an exceedingly splendid sash and one's hair was 
" done " in the most magnificent way. Some had 
crimps, some had curls, some had ribbons, some 
had round combs. The Small Person had rows 
and rows of curls, and a round comb to keep them 
out of her eyes. 

The little boys had Eton jackets, broad and 
spotless collars, and beautiful blue and red bows 
for neckties. It was also the fashionable thing 
for the straight-haired ones to be resplendently 



132 The One I Knew the Best of All 

curled by the hairdresser, which gave a finish- 
ing- touch to their impressively shining and gala 
air. 

The pink and blue and white frocks and sashes 
only added to the elated delight of the little girls, 
I am sure. They enjoyed their slippers and tiny 
white kid gloves (they had only one button then), 
and were excited by their little lockets and neck- 
laces, but I do not think the boys enjoyed their 
collars and new jackets, or ever forgot that their 
hair had been curled, until they reached the 
supper-room and were handed oranges and tipsy- 
cake. 

But these exhilarations were not reached until 
the serious business of the evening was over. It 
was very serious to the Small Person. She dis- 
liked it definitely, and never felt that the "Break- 
ing-up " had begun until her share of it was over. 
To walk into the middle of the room, to make 
one's most finished little courtesy, and then, stand- 
ing, surrounded by a circle of Mammas in their 
best caps, to " say a piece of poetry," was not an 
agreeable thing. I do not think her performance 
ever distinguished itself by any special dramatic 
intelligence. I know she was always devoutly 
glad when it was over and she could make the 
final courtesy and hastily retire. She also felt the 
same sense of relief when she had struck the last 
chord of the show " piece ' she was expected to 



The Party 133 

play upon the piano, and reached the last note of 
her exhibition song. When one reflects that each 
music pupil was called upon for a like perform- 
ance, and that numberless careful recitations 
were given, it is, perhaps, not unnatural that 
Papas were not plentiful. But not a Mamma 
flinched. 

But after all this was over the Christmas Hol- 
idays had begun. The short frocks and sashes 
danced quadrilles and round dances with the 
Eton jackets and spotless broad collars. There 
was a Christmas-tree in the school -room and 
upon and beneath it were such prizes as meri- 
torious efforts had gained for accomplishments 
or good conduct. In the dining-room there were 
sandwiches and cake and oranges, and crackers 
with mottoes within expressive of deep and ten- 
der emotions. One jumped very much when 
they went off, and the daring exchanged mottoes 
with each other. Cowslip wine flowed freely, 
and there was negus with bits of lemon floating 
in it in fact, one felt one's self absorbed in the 
whirling vortex of society, and wondered how 
grown-up people, to whom Parties were compar- 
atively every -day affairs, could possibly walk 
calmly on the surface of the earth. The Break- 
ing-up was a glittering a brilliant thing. 

And it was only the beginning. 

All through the three weeks' holiday there 



134 The One I Knew the Best of All 

were other entertainments almost as brilliant. 
They would have been quite as brilliant only 
that they were not the " Breaking-up." Every 
little boy or girl, whose Mamma could indulge 
in such a luxury, gave a Christmas Party. They 
were all called Christmas Parties during these 
holidays. And through all these festivities the 
Small Person was conscious of a curious fatality 
which pursued her, and which is perhaps worth 
recording because it was a thing so human, 
though she did not in the least comprehend its 
significance. 

Each time that a note arrived " hoping to have 
the pleasure ' of her company and that of her 
sisters and brothers wild exhilaration reigned. 
Everybody began to be excited at once. A party 
seemed a thing it was impossible to wait patiently 
for. It got into one's head and one's body, and 
made one dance about instead of walking. I do 
not think this resulted from anticipation of the 
polkas and games or the negus and tipsy-cake, or 
was absolutely a consequence of the prospect of 
donning the white frock and sash and slippers it 
was the Party that did it. Perhaps young birds 
who have just learned to fly, young ducks in their 
first plunge into a pond, young chanticleers who 
have discovered they can crow, may feel some- 
thing of the same elation and delight. It was 
the Party ! 



The Party 135 

And when such eventful evenings arrived what 
a scene the Nursery presented ! How intoxicat- 
ing the toilette was from the bath to the snap- 
ping of the clasp of the necklace which was the 
final touch ! How one danced about, and broke 
into involuntary outbursts of romps with one's 
sisters ! How impossible it was to stand still 
while one's hair was curled, and how the poor 
nurse and governess reproached, reasoned, im- 
plored for decorum, and at intervals appealed to 
one's Mamma, who came in intending to restore 
order with a word, and entering amid the chaos 
of frocks and sashes and unbridled rapture, was 
overwhelmed by its innocent uncontrollableness, 
and said, without any real severity at all : 

" Now, children ! You really must be quiet and 
let yourselves be dressed ! You will never be 
ready for the Party ! ' 

The last awful possibility usually restored order 
for a few seconds, but it was impossible that it 
should last long. Nature was too much for one. 

The picture of the Nursery on such occasions is 
one of those which remain to me. The bright 
fire, which danced itself, the numberless small 
garments scattered about, the Party frocks whose 
sacredness entitled them to places apart which 
seemed quite like Altars, the sashes lying on top 
of them, the three unrestrainable small persons 
darting about in various stages of undress, the 



136 The One I Knciu the Best of All 

nurse pursuing them with a view to securing 
buttons or putting on slippers, the mirror in 
which one saw reflected an excited, glorified 
Party face, with large, dancing eyes, and round 




cheeks which were no other shade than crimson 
or scarlet. These are the details. 

But the clasp of the necklace snapped at last, 
the small white glove was buttoned, the small 
wrap enfolded one's splendor, and the minute 



The Party 137 

after one was rolling through the streets, going 
to the Party. 

./ 

And then one was standing upon the steps and 
the front door was opened, revealing a glittering 
scene within, where numberless muslin or tarla- 
tan frocks and Eton jackets passed up and down 
the enchanted staircase, or hesitated shyly until 
some hospitable person took charge of their tim- 
idity. 

To-day even in the manufacturing towns in 
England the entertainments given to youth are 
probably not of a nature as substantial as they 
were then. They were not matters of mere ices 
and fruits and salads then. By no means. The 
Small Person herself, who was the proprietor of a 
noble and well-rounded appetite, was frequently 
conscious of staggering a little under the civilities 
of hospitality. The sad, the tragic truth which is 
the sting of life that one can have Enough, and 
that after it one wants no more more than once 
touched her with a shade of gentle, though un- 
consciously significant, melancholy. She realized 
no occult illustration and thought it a mere mat- 
ter of cakes. 

First there was tea. One sat with all the Party 
at long tables. There were very buttery muffins 
and crumpets and Sally-lunns, and preserves and 
jellies and marmalade, and currant cake, and pot- 
ted shrimps and potted beef, and thin bread-and- 



138 The One I Knew the Best of All 

butter and toast, and tea and coffee, and biscuits, 
and one was asked to eat them all, whether one 
was capable of it or not. 

" Have another piece of muffin, dear," the 
mamma of the occasion would say, with pressing 
bounteousness. " Oh, come, you must, love just 
one piece and some more strawberry jam ; you 
have not made a good tea at all. Jane," to the 
parlor-maid, " muffins and strawberry jam for 
Miss Frances." And her voice was always so 
amiable, and it was so hard to persist in saying, 
" No, thank you, Mrs. Jones," with all the Party 
looking on, that one tried again until it could only 
have been through a special intervention of Provi- 
dence that appalling consequences did not ensue. 
And then when that was over one went into the 
drawing-room, which was decorated with holly 
and mistletoe, and where the party frocks and 
Eton jackets at first exhibited a tendency to fight 
shy of each other and collect in polite little groups 
until somebody grown up interfered and made 
them dance quadrilles or play " Hunt the Slipper" 
or <4 Old Soldier." After that they began to en- 
joy themselves. They were not precociously con- 
ventional young persons. His first awkwardness 
worn off, the Eton Jacket had no hesitation in 
crossing the floor to the particular White Frock 
seemins: desirable to him. 

o 

" Will you dance this waltz with me ? ' he 



The Party 



139 



would say. Upon which the White Frock would 
either reply : 

" Yes, I will," or, " I've promised Jemmy Daw- 
son," in which latter case the Eton Jacket cheer- 
fully went and invited somebody else. 

There were a great many polkas and schot- 
tisches. These, in fact, were rather the popular 
dances. They 
were considered 
better fun than 
quadrilles. The 
Party danced 
them until it be- 
came quite hot, 
and the Eton 
jackets were con- 
strained to apply 
handkerchiefs to 
their heated 
brows. To sub- 
due this heat and 

sustain exhausted nature, trays of lemonade and 
negus and oranges and little cakes appeared, 
borne by servant-maids in Party caps with rib- 
bons. It was not supposed that a party could 
subsist on air- -and supper would not be an- 
nounced until nearly eleven. The oranges were 
cut in quarters and halves so that they might be 
easily managed, the negus was usually in a re- 




140 The One I Knew the Best of All 

splendent bowl with a ladle in it. Then the danc- 
ing began again and there were more games and 
the festivities became more and more brilliant. 
The White Frocks whirled about with the Eton 
Jackets, they were candidly embraced under the 
mistletoe, the grown-up people looked on and 
commented upon them in undertones and some- 
times laughed a great deal. Sometimes in danc- 
ing past a group one heard some one say, " Em- 
my dances very well," or " How pretty Ma- 
rian is ! ' or " Very fine boy, Jack Leslie ! ' 
And if one were Emmy or Marian or Jack 
one blushed and tried to look as if one had not 
heard. 

It was generally in the midst of this whirl of 
frocks and sashes, the gay strains of the dance- 
music, the chattering, laughing voices, that the 
Small Person found herself beset by that fatality 
which has been referred to. It was a curious 
thought which gave her a sense of restlessness 
she did not like. 

She was very fond of dancing. She was an 
excitable Small Person, and the movement, the 
music, the rhythm of it all exalted her greatly. 
She was never tired and was much given to en- 
tering into agreements with other White Frocks 
and Eton Jackets to see which could outdance 
the other. It was an exciting thing to do. One 
danced until one's cheeks were scarlet and one's 



The Party 141 

heart beat, but one never gave up until some one 
in authority interfered. 

Having stopped- -laughing and panting and 
standing 1 with her hand against her little side as 

o o 

she watched the kaleidoscopic whirl, the music 
and voices and laughter filling her ears, she so 
often found she was asking herself a question, " Is 
this the Party ? " 

It seemed as if something in her insisted on 
realizing that the joy looked forward to with 
such excitement had absolutely materialized. 

" Is this really the Party ?" she would say men- 
tally. And then, to convince herself, to make it 
real, " Yes, this is the Party. I am at the Party. 
I have my Party frock on they are all dancing. 
This is the Party." 

And yet as she stood and stared, and the gay 
sashes floated by, she was restlessly conscious of 
not being quite convinced and satisfied, and of 
something which was saying, 

" Yes we are all here. It looks real, but 
somehow it doesn't seem exactly as if it was the 
Party." 

And one does it all one's life. Everybody 
dances, everybody hears the music, everybody 
some time wears a sash and a necklace and 
watches other White Frocks whirling by- -but 
was there ever any one who really went to the 
Party ? 



CHAPTER IX. 

The Wedding 

A " GROWN-UP young lady ' was a very won- 
derful being. She wore a long frock, sometimes 
with numbers of flounces, she went to church in 
a bonnet made of tulle and flowers, or velvet and 
little plumes, she had rings on and possessed a 
watch and chain. It was thrilling to contemplate 
her from afar. It seemed impossible that one 
could ever attain such dazzling eminence one's 
self. She went to Balls. No one knew what a 
Ball was, but it was supposed to be a speciallv 
magnificent and glorified kind of Party. At Balls 
grown-up gentlemen in dress suits, and with rare 
flowers in their buttonholes, danced with the 
young ladies who wore ethereal dresses, and per- 
haps wreaths, and who carried bouquets. These 
resplendent and regal beings talked to each other. 
One did not know what they talked about, but 
one was sure that their conversation was at once 
sparkling, polished, and intellectual beyond meas- 
ure, something like grammar, geography, and 
arithmetic set with jewels of noble sentiment and 
brilliant repartee. Only the most careful applica- 



The Wedding 143 

tion to the study of one's lessons, one's morals, 
and one's manners could fit one to presume to 
think that in coming ages one might aspire to 
mingle with such society. 

The proprietresses of the school at which the 
Small Person spent her early educational years 



were young ladies. But no one in the school 
would have been irreverent enough to realize 
this. Representing as they did education, author- 
ity, information of the vastest, and experience of 
the most mature dignity, one could not connect 
the insignificance of youth with them. One of 

O J 

them was perhaps twenty-three, the other twenty- 
four or five, and though neither wore caps, and 
both wore ringlets, as the Mammas all seemed of 
equal age, so these two young ladies seemed to be 
of ripe years. One day, indeed, there was a grave 
discussion amonsr the little o^irls as to what a^e 

o o o 

these dignified persons had attained, and one of 
them heard it. 

She was really a rounded, sparkling - eyed, 
rather Hebe-like little creature, with a profusion 
of wonderful black ringlets. It was the hour of 
ringlets. 

" And how old do you think I am ? ' she in- 
quired of one of her pupils. 

She was looking at them from behind her table, 

C5 

with rather amused eyes, and suddenly the Small 
Person, who was regarding her, became subtly 



144 The One I Knew tlie Best of AIL 

conscious of a feeling that it was possible that she 
was younger than the Mammas. " How old ? ' 
said the girl who had been asked. " Well I 
should think of course I don't know, but I should 
think about forty." 

It was interesting, but seemed rather unnatural 
that their friends and companions seemed to be 
real young ladies. Was it possible that there 
were real vouns: ladies whose recreation consisted 

J O 

in talking about Roman emperors, the boundaries 
of Europe, the date when Richard I. began to 
reign, Lindley Murray's impressions on the sub- 
ject of personal pronouns, and the result of the 
" coming over ' of William the Conqueror ? 
Could it be that when they took tea together 
they liked to be asked suddenly, " Who was the 
first King of all England?" or "What is Mac- 
clesfield noted for?" or "Where are the Oural 
Mountains?' 

It seemed as if it would be more than human 
nature could endure to have such delicate ques- 
tions as these pressed and dwelt upon, in com- 
bination with muffins and thin bread-and-butter, 
but what else could they talk about ? Uneducated 
flippancies were impossible. 

A faint suggestion of other possibilities was 
shadowed forth in the imaginative mind of the 
Small Person by her introduction one day to two 
pink silk dresses. They were shown to her by 



The Wedding 145 

the little sister of the two teachers, and they were 
to be worn by these sedate persons to a Ball. 

The ladies were the elder daughters of one of 
the 2/;/widowed gentlemen in reduced circum- 
stances. He had begun life as a presumable heir 
to an old estate and fortune. Fate had played 
him a curious trick which disinherited him, and 
ended in his living in the Square, and in his 
daughters keeping a " select seminary for young 
ladies and gentlemen." But they had relatives 
on whom Fate had not played tricks, and there 
were some young ladies in beautiful little bonnets, 
who were their cousins, and who came to see 
them, in a carnage, and were considered radiant. 

" The carriage from Grantham Hall is standing 
before the Hatleigh's door," some child would 
announce to another. " Let us go and walk past. 
It is Miss Eliza who is in it, and you know she's 
the prettiest. She has a lavender silk frock on 
and a lace parasol." 

There were legends of marvellous enjoyments at 
Grantham Hall. Perhaps they were all results of 
the imaginations of tender years, but they con- 
tinually floated in the air. Perhaps the younger 
sisters were rather proud of the possession of 
cousins who went to Balls and had such bonnets. 

But it is a fact without doubt that the two pink 
silk frocks were preparation for some gala event 

at Grantham. 
10 



146 The One I Knew the Best of AIL 

The Best Friend was one of the younger sisters 
(their name was legion), and it was she who first 
imparted to the Small Person the thrilling con- 
fidence that Sister and Janey had each a beautiful 
pink frock to wear at the party at Grantham. 

" They are both lying on the bed in the spare 
bedroom," said the Best Friend. " The party is 
to-night, and they are all ready to put on. I 
wish Sister would let me take you in to look at 
them." 

The little lady who was supposed to be forty 
was always called " Sister." She was the eldest 
of a family of nine. On being appealed to she 
was sufficiently indulgent to give permission to 
the Best Friend to exhibit the festal glories. 

So the Small Person was taken into the spare 
bedroom. It was no trivial incident. The two 
pink silk frocks lay upon the bed, the waiting 
wings of two brilliant butterflies, at the moment 
setting copies in a chrysalis state. They had 
numberless tiny flounces " pinked out" in lovely 
little scallops round the edge, they had short 
puffs for sleeves, and they had low bodices with 
berthas of tulle and tiny rosebuds around them. 

The Small Person positively blushed with ad- 
miration and rapture. How could Sister, being 
attired in a thing like this, lift her dark eyes to 
the grown-up gentleman waltzing with her and 
say to him with proper firmness: 



The Wedding 



147 



" 



Fifteen from fifty-seven and how many re- 
main ? ' 

The Small Person felt it would be impossible, 
though she knew nothing whatever of the circum- 
stances under which it was 
not impossible for a very 
bold grown-up gentleman 
to say : 

" My charming Sis- 
ter, my education 
has been neglect- 
ed, but if you 
will give me 
the fifty-sev- 
en and per- 
m it me 




148 77ie One I Knew the Best of All 

to take the fifteen away, I will endeavor to calcu- 
late." 

It might easily have been Sister and Janey who 
were the principal features of the two marriages 
which were the first nuptial ceremonies appear- 
ing upon the stage of the Small Person's existence. 
But it was two of the cousins who were the 
brides two of the young ladies from Grantham 
Hall. 

Rumors of the approaching ceremonies being 
whispered in the school-room, the most thrilling 
interest was awakened. The prospect was more 
exciting than the breaking-up itself. There was 
something at once festive and imposing about 
it. Opinions as to the nature of the ceremony 
were numerous and varied. No one had ever 
attended a wedding, and yet somehow nearly 
everyone could supply some detailed informa- 
tion. 

Whispered conversation on the subject could 
not be wholly repressed, even by authority. 
From some mysterious reliable source it was as- 
certained that the principal features of the sacred 
contract were that the gro \vn-up young lady wore 
a singularly resplendent and ethereal white frock, 
that she was wreathed with orange-blossoms and 
adorned with a white veil accompanied by a 
splendid bouquet and a grown-up gentleman. 
The grown-up gentleman was not dwelt upon par- 



The Wedding 149 

ticularly ; one always asked of the bride, " Is she 
pretty ? ' but nobody ever inquired if he was 
pretty. He seemed immaterial, so to speak, and 
when not slurred over he seemed somehow to be 
regarded with some slight vague distrust. 

Every pupil knew what the bride was going to 
be dressed in, what her veil was made of, what 
flowers were to compose her bouquet, but no in- 
terest whatever was felt in the possible costume 
qf the grown-up gentleman. 

The Small Person, while interested in him as a 
mystery, was conscious that he Avas regarded as a 
sort of necessary flaw in the occasion. The Story 
gave him interest to her. She had never seen 
him, but recollections of Ernest Maltravers, Quen- 
tin Durward, and the Master of Ravenswood gave 
him a nebulous form. The wedding was to be a 
double one, the two sisters being married at once, 
consequently there were two grown-up gentlemen 
involved, and it was rather soul-stirring to hear a 
vague rumor that one of them who was very 
handsome, having dark eyes and a straight nose 
-was not smiled upon by the bride's papa, and 
that he had forced his way to the altar through 
serious parental opposition. He was not consid- 
ered a sufficiently staid and well-to-do grown-up 
gentleman. There were suggestions of the Mas- 
ter of Ravenswood in this. 

" I wonder if they like each other very much ? ' 



150 The One I Knew the Best of All 

this sentimental little Person rather timidly in- 
quired. 

But no one seemed to know anything beautiful 
and romantic about it, so she combined with his 
straight nose and dark eyes the misfortunes and 
attributes of all the heroes in the " Secretaire," 
and found it thrilling that he was on the point of 
leading to the shrine the veil and the orange-blos- 
soms, and thus being made happy forever after. 

What a morning it was when the wedding took 
place. There were no lessons. The two young 
teachers were to be among the bridemaids. They 
were to wear veils and wreaths themselves, and 
several of the most decorous little girls were 
going to the church to look at them. They went 
in a body, attired in their best frocks and feeling 
quite light-headed with their exalted sense of an- 
ticipation. 

The sun was shining brilliantly, everything was 
shining brilliantly one felt. The cabs and omni- 
buses seemed to rattle by with a gay, rather reck- 
less air, the passers-by moved more briskly than 
usual, in fact there was in the atmosphere a sug- 
gestion that everybody and everything must be 
going to a wedding. Everybody of course must 
know about it and be interested, indeed there 
were evidences of interest in the fact that as 
people passed by they nearly always glanced at 
the open church door, and a few rather shabby 



The Wedding 1 5 t 

persons having loitered about the entrance, their 
number continued adding to itself until they 
formed a waiting group. 

The Small Person and her companions waited 
also. Nobody could have thought of going into 
the church until the carriages had arrived and 
they had seen everybody get out, not to mention 
the fact that being inexperienced they were timid 
and lacked the courage to take any bold steps. 
They stood very much in awe of an official in a 
sort of gown who was known as the " Parroter," 
and whose function it was to show people to 
pews on Sunday and look pained and annoyed 
when little boys sneezed too frequently or drop- 
ped things. 

" Perhaps the Parroter wouldn't let us in," said 
someone. " Dare you ask him? ' 

But nobody dared do anything until the bridal 
party arrived. It seemed as if it would never 
come. The waiting in the street seemed to last 
hours and hours, and was filled with tumultuous 
agitations caused by false alarms that the car- 



riages were coming. 



"Here they are! Here they are!" somebody 
would cry. " I'm sure that's a carriage turning 
the corner down the street. Don't you see it ? ' 
And then everyone became elated and moved ner- 
vously for fear she had not a good place, and 
pulses quickened and hearts beat and the car- 



152 The One I Knew the Best of All 

riage probably turned out to be a cab. They 
wandered up and clown restlessly to make the 
time pass more quickly, and one or two bold 
spirits even went and peeped into the church, 
but retired precipitately at the approach of the 
" Parroter." The Small Person after what ap- 
peared to her some sixteen hours of suspense 
and agitation- - was pervaded by an awful se- 
cret fear that at the last moment Quentinravens- 
woodmaltravers had been forever tabooed by 
his bride's family and there would be no wedding 
at all. 

But at last, at last the bells began to ring that 
loud, gay, hilarious wedding-chime, the bell-notes 
seeming: to race and tumble over each other in 

o 

their hurry to be joyful. 

There w r as something curiously intoxicating 
about it. It was the Party over again only more 
than the Party. The Small Person looked up at 
the bell-tower and the blue sky behind it. What 
exquisite blue sky ! What soft little fleecy white 
clouds ! What a beautiful day ! " Happy is the 
bride that the sun shines on." Someone had said 
that, and the sun was shining ! The carriages 
were there and the crowd about her w r as stirring 
Avith excited curiosity. But she saw only vapor- 
ous whiteness and flowers and dowagers' rich 
colors, with blots of grown-up gentlemen. The 
sun was shining, the bells were chiming, the 



The Wedding 153 

church was filling". Happy was the bride that 
the sun shone on. But all brides were hap- 
py ? The sun always shone on them. What a 
strange, delightful, exalting event it was to be 
Married ! 

She never knew how she was led or dragged or 
hustled into the church. Some other little girl 
more practical and executive than herself man- 
aged her. But presently she was there, ensconced 
in a high pew in the cathedral grayness. The 
church was a cathedral and impressed her deeply. 
She felt religious and wondered if she ought not 
to say her prayers. She was not calm enough to 
see detail she was too emotional a Small Person, 
and this was the first time she had seen anyone 
married. The vaporous whiteness, the floating 
veils and flowers were grouped about the altar, 
the minister seemed to be taking the brides and 
the grown-up gentlemen to task at some length. 
He called them Dearly Beloved, but appeared to 
address rather severe warnings to them. The 
Small Person had a vague feeling that he was of 
the opinion that they would come to a bad end if 
not admonished in time. She hoped they would 
not particularly Quentinravenswoodmaltravers, 
whose straight nose she had been too deeply' 
moved to single out from the rest. For a moment 
or so she felt that it was so solemn to be married 
that it was almost conducive to low spirits. But 



154 The One T Knew the Best of All 

she cheered up after the minister appeared to 
have relented and let them off and they moved 
away to the vestry. Then there was a stir among 
the spectators, which soon became a bustle, and 
she was led or dragged or hustled out into the 
sunshine and renewed joyous clangor of the bells. 
There was a great bustle outside. The crowd 
of lookers-on had increased, and a policeman was 
keeping it back, while the carriages stood in line 
and closed up one by one as the floating frocks 
and veils, and dowagers' velvets and satins, and 
blots of grown-up gentlemen filled them, and were 
driven away. The Small Person watched it all as 
in a dream. The bells raced and clamored, the 
sun shone brighter than ever. She was only a 
Small Person who had really nothing to do with 
these splendors and who no more contemplated 
the magnificent prospect of being married herself 
than she contemplated being crowned in West- 
minster Abbey. Such glories as these were only 
for grown-up people. But they were beautiful- 
beautiful ! 

The young ladies who had been married in 
full panoply of white satin and wreaths and veils 
-were each handed into a carriage by the grown- 
up gentleman they belonged to, who got into the 
carriage also. 

o 

After they had all driven away, the bells had 
ceased their clamor, and the crowd dispersed, one 



Tk e I Vedding 1 5 5 

sharp-eyed little person made a most interesting 
statement : 

" I saw in as their carriage drove past," she an- 
nounced, " and he had Miss Grantham's head on 
his shoulder." 

"Which one was it?" inquired the Small Per- 
son. She was sure it was Quentinravenswoodmal- 

travers. 

And inquiry proved that it was. 



CHAPTER X. 

The Strange Tiling 

IT seems inevitable that each individual, in look- 
ing back to childhood and the school-room, should 
recall distinct memories of certain children who 
somehow stood out from among their fellows, 
made prominent or set apart a little by some 
beauty, strength, or cleverness, or some unattrac- 
tiveness or disability. There is, perhaps, in every 
school-room, the girl or boy who is handsome, 
who has fine eyes or splendid hair, the one who 
learns lessons with amazing quickness, the one 
who is specially well-dressed and has an air of well- 
being, the one who is dull or common-looking, the 
one who is somehow commoner than anyone else, 
the one who has an easy, fearless manner, and is 
suspected of being the " favorite " of those in au- 
thority, the one, poor child, who is physically ugly 
and unpleasant, and cannot rise against the fate 
which has treated him so cruelly. 

The Small Person knew each of these types. 
She was not consciously an aristocratic little Per- 
son, but she had an intense, silent dislike to, and 
impatience of, the " common ' ones. She found 



The Strange Thing 157 

them antipathetic to a degree which was trying, 
as one of them happened to be amusing and 
another really good-natured. She continually 
tried to adjust herself to them, but the " common- 
ness" always interfered. It made the good-nat- 
ured one ridiculous and the amusing one odious 
and unprincipled. Among the younger ones there 
was a little boy who impressed her without actually 
being interesting. He was not clever, he was not 
pretty, he was not engaging. He was an inoffen- 
sive little fellow, and set apart in her imagination 
by a mysterious unfortunateness. As I look back 
I think it possible that he was really a shy and 
gentle little fellow, on whom one's maturity might 
look with great tenderness. The Small Person 
felt a vague kindliness for him, though she was 
not at all intimate with him. 

" He is very delicate," people said of him, and 
she could not but regard him with a sort of curi- 
ousness. She was not delicate, no one belonging 
to her was delicate. She belonged to a family of 
romping, red-blooded creatures, and the idea of 
being " delicate ' seemed mysterious as well as 
mournful. 

And he had such a strange, unnatural look. He 
was slight and insignificant, light-haired and gray- 
eyed, and he had a peculiarity marked among the 
groups of plump and rosy juveniles about him- 
instead of being pink or rose-colored, his cheeks 



158 The One I Knew the Best of All 

and lips were bluish purple. They were distinct- 
ly far from the normal color. They were not red 
at all, and sometimes they looked quite violet. 

" What a queer color Alfie's lips are," was often 
said. " Isn't it funny ? They're blue, and so are 
his cheeks." 

And then someone would say wisely, and rather 
proud of the superior knowledge : 

" It's because he has heart disease. I heard Miss 
Janey speaking about it. He may die quite sud- 
denly." 

And then someone would know stories of peo- 
ple who had died suddenly, and would relate them, 
and a sense of awe would pervade everybody, as 
it always did when Death was spoken of though 
it was so impossible, so impossible that any of them- 
selves could die. People did die, of course, peo- 
ple who had lived to be quite old, or who had 
caught scarlet fever in some phenomenal way, but 
somehow they seemed to belong to a world quite 
far off and quite different to the one in which one's 
self lived to the world of the Nursery and the 
Square, and the Schoolroom where one did one's 
sums wrong and could not remember the date of 
Henry VIII.'s marriage with Anne Boleyn. Oh, 
no, that would be too incongruous ! 

It gave the Small Person a curious feeling to try 
to realize that the plain, quiet little boy with the 
blue lips might die die quite suddenly. Once she 



The Strange Thing 159 

gave him a new slate-pencil because of it, though 
she did not tell him why, and was perhaps scarce- 
ly definite herself about it. She used to forget 
her geography in looking at him questioningly 
when he did not see her. 

It must have been one of the " common ' ones 
who one morning came to her, wearing an air of 
excited elation in her consciousness of having 
startling news to impart, and who greeted her 
with 

" Have you heard about Alfie Burns?' 
" No," she answered ; " what about him ? >: 
" He's dead" said the news-bearer. " He wasn't 
at school yesterday and he died this morning." 

So the Strange Thing came among them into 
the school-room among the forms and desks and 
battered books, making itself in an unreal way as 
real as the ink-stands and slate-pencils. It had 
come to Alfie Burns, with his little ordinary face 
and lank hair, and yet it still remained impossible. 
It had come to Alfie Burns but it could not come 
to any of the rest of them. Somehow he must 
have been " different." He was " delicate ' and 
had that queer color. At any rate he was " differ- 
ent " now, and seemed impossible, too. There was 
a curious intense craving for detail among the 
older ones. Everyone wanted to know how he 
had died, and if he had said anything. In the 
books of memoirs the little boy or girl always 



160 The One I Knew the Best of All 

said " last words," which were a sort of final script- 
ural or instructive effort. They were usually 
like this : 

" Father," said James, between his paroxysms of 
agony, " try to be a better man that you may meet 
me in Heaven." 

" Brother Thomas," said Mary Ann, faintly, " do 
as mother tells you and obey your Sabbath-school 
teacher." 

" Please do not swear any more, Uncle William 
Henry," said little Jane, as her mother wiped 
the death-damp from her brow. " I shall be in 
Heaven in a few minutes and I want you to 
come." 

Remembering these thinsrs one wondered what 

o o ^ 

Alfie's " last words ' had been. It would have 
seemed almost impossible that anyone could die 
without last words. Wicked people always ex- 
pired in frightful torment, using profane language 
or crying for mercy or writhing with remorse be- 
cause they had not been better before they were 
taken ill. Alfie had been a sort of indefinite, in- 
significant little boy. He was not naughty, but 
his goodness had a passive negative quality and 
he never reproved or instructed anyone. So it 
was difficult to adjust one's self to the situation, 
and imagine how the Strange Thins: would find 

o o o 

him when it came. 

And nobody knew any detail. There seemed 



The Strange Thing 161 

to be none. He had died, and of course it was 
supposable that his parents had cried, and we 
knew he would be buried. And though the event 
was discussed and discussed from all points of 
view this was all anyone knew. 

No one had ever been to his house or seen his 
parents. They were quiet business people who 
did not belong to the Square, and, as far as the 
school seemed to know, he had no brothers or sis- 
ters and must have had a rather dull life. He 
did not seem to have any particular companions 
or to invite people to his house to play or to have 
tea with him. 

According to all orthodox beliefs and in an 
innocent way nothing could have been more or- 
thodox than all the schoolhe had gone to 
Heaven and was an Angel. 

This the Small Person found a tremendous 
problem to grasp. I know that it pervaded her 
for days, and I wonder why she did not talk 
about it to somebody grown up. Perhaps it 
was her infant English habit of reserving her 
sentiments and emotions, combined with her se- 
cret consciousness that she was so little and 
that the grown-up people were so big that they 
could not really understand one another's point 
of view. Of course, to people who knew all 
about Death and Heaven and Angels, her re- 
marks would seem silly and trivial perhaps 
n 



1 62 The One I Knew the Best of All 

even disrespectful. She did not ask anything, 
but was oppressed and permeated by a vague 
sadness and sense of unexplained things. 

Heaven was a place without laws or boun- 
daries. Anything could be done there if one 
once got in and everything was there. There 
was a Great White Throne, there were streets 
of gold, and walls built of " all manner of pre- 
cious stones." The stones she remembered 
principally were the chalcedony and sardonyx, 
sardius, chrysolite, beryl, and chrysoprasus, be- 
cause they had strange names, and she wondered 
what color they were. And there was a Woman 
on a " scarlet-colored beast, full of names of 
blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns," 
and though she was in Heaven she was " drunk- 
en with the blood of the saints." And there 
were Dragons and Beasts, and there were El- 
ders and Pale Horses and Golden Candlesticks 
and Golden Vials. And the Beasts were full of 
eyes before and behind and had six wings each, 
and the horses had breast-plates of fire and ja- 
cinth and brimstone, and heads of lions, and fire 
and smoke came out of their mouths. It was all 
in Revelations and so it was true. Heaven was 
like that, and Alfie Burns had gone there out 
of the school-room and the atmosphere of ink- 
stands and copy-books, from making mistakes 
in his sums and cleaning his slate with an un- 



The Strange Thing 163 

savory " slate -rag' or sponge, from looking 
yearningly out at the other slates on the roofs to 
see if it was raining and there was no prospect of 
playing. And now suddenly he was an Angel and 
wore wings. Wings seemed as impossible as the 
Strange Thing which had happened to him. It 
was so difficult to adjust them to his little blue- 
lipped face and small, insignificant figure which 
his clothes seemed always rather too large for. 

" But he would be quite different," the Small 
Person persisted obstinately to herself as her 
only consolation. " He would be quite different 
and he would be dressed in white robes." 

The draperies she tried to see him in were 
something of the nature of a very voluminous, 
very white night-gown but at all events they 
were " quite different." The interest of all this 
is that what we begin with at seven we seem to 
end with at seventy. How are we less vague- 
what more do we know ? Nothing nothing- 
nothing, but that whatever it is wherever it is 
-it is " quite different." 

In the years which lie between we have learned 
more geography, more astronomy, we have 
learned that the blue is space and the clouds 
are vapor, but what more definite, but that we 
clamor for something, we plead for something, 
we must have something, we ought to have some- 
thing " quite different." 



164 The One I Knew the Best of All 

Somebody - probably it was the executive, 
practical little girl who had had the energy and 
ability to hustle the vague Small Person into the 
church at the Grantham wedding- - somebody 
proposed that two or three select ones should go 
to Alfie's home and ask to be allowed to " see ' 
him. 

The Small Person was awed. She wanted 
very much to see him- -what was left of him 
after he had become an angel. " His soul has 
gone to Heaven, his body is only dust," that was 
what was always said. She somehow wanted to 
look at the poor little body which was only dust. 

" Perhaps we oughtn't to go," she said, timor- 
ously. " Perhaps they won't like us to see him." 

But she was taken. Somebody else had been 
and nobody had seemed to dislike their going. 
The Small Person, I have frequently reflected, 
was always taken to places. She was not a strong 
Small Person, except in unsuspected powers of 
keeping quiet under some strong emotions, and 
in possessing a certain silent steadiness of pur- 
pose when she meant to do a thing. Perhaps 
her strength was and always has been that she 
quite unconsciously looked as if she meant noth- 
ing while she really meant a great deal. But 
that was probably far less a moral or mental qual- 
ity than a gift amiably bestowed by Nature in a 
lavish moment. The leading spirits took her to 



The Strange Thing 165 

the place under their charge. Afterward she did 
not seem to remember anything about the house, 
even its entrance or stairway anything but a 
certain dull, dreary little front parlor in it. This 
was most likely because she remembered the lit- 
tle dismal room and what was there so strangely 
well. 

It was such a dull, unpicturesque room, small 
and unadorned, and dreary beyond measure. At 
least so it seemed to the Small Person, though 
she saw no detail of it but a stiff horsehair-cov- 
ered sofa against a wall. On this sofa lay some- 
thing covered with a white sheet. This was what 
they had come to see. Somehow the room, the 
sofa, the whole atmosphere of the colorless dul- 
ness seemed like the little unornamental fellow 
himself, with his lank hair, his ill-fitting clothes, 
and his mild, small, unattractive, bluish face. The 
person who had taken charge of them drew the 
white sheet away, and the Small Person saw the 
Strange Thing for the first time, with an awful 
sense of desolateness and depression. 

Even the Strange Thing had not left the poor 
little fellow beautiful. He seemed to have grown 
very long ; he was clothed in an awesome gar- 
ment of bluish white flannel, with ornamentation 
of ugly stamped scalloped edges ; in accordance 
with some belated grewsome fashion he had on 
a strange muslin night-cap, whose stiff crimped 



1 66 The One I Knew the Best of All 

frill border made an unlovely setting for his poor 
little still bluish face. It looked more dusky than 
ever in its strange blue color, and his lips were 
almost violet. A line of lifeless gray showed 
itself under the not entirely closed lids. 

The Small Person stood and looked down at 
this with a rather awful feeling. She did not 
know what she had expected to see, but this 
made her heart beat with dreary throbs. It was 
not that she was exactly frightened, on the whole 
she was not as frightened as she had expected to 
be when she came face to face with the Strange 
Thing, but she felt an indescribable awed dreari- 
ness. She also wondered why she did not begin 
to cry. She had imagined that at the sight of 
the Strange Thing one would inevitably begin to 
cry. She wondered if it was because she had no 
heart that she did not. Ought one really to sob 
bitterly at the sight of a little boy one had not 
known at all well, and of whom one chiefly re- 
membered that he had heart disease and blue 
lips ? 

" He is an Angel," she kept insisting, mentally. 



" He has gone to Heaven.' 



The girl who had taken her to the house whis- 
pered to her, telling her to touch him. She had 
touched him herself, and so had the others. This 
appeared to be part of a ceremony. The Small 
Person shrank very much. She felt that it would 



The Strange Thing 



167 



be an awful thing to do. And yet she had heard 
so much about a certain strange coldness colder 
than anything else not the same thing as any 
other coldness as " cold as Death." There was 
a fearsome longing to know what it was like. 









'S 




And if one touched what the Strange Thing had 
left, one did not dream about it. One could not 
bear the thought of dreaming of the small room, 
the horsehair sofa, and the poor little unlovely 
object with the frilled muslin cap and eyelids not 
quite closed. 



1 68 The One I Knew tlie Best of All 

She put out her hand and touched the unsmil- 
ing cheek. 

" As cold as Death ! ' It was not as cold as 
she had imagined it would be. Not as cold as ice 
or as cold as snow and yet and yet it was un- 
like anything else a soft chillness which some- 
how seemed to hold no possibility of its ever 
being warmed. What she carried away from the 
dreary little room when she left it was the mem- 
ory of that soft chillness and a sort of wonder at 
herself because she had really seen the Strange 
Thing. 

" Poor little Alfie," the executive child said. 
" I'm very sorry for him, but he's better off." 
The general opinion expressed was that every- 
body was " sorry " for him. It would have been 
unfeeling not to be sorry. There was also the 
greatest possible stress laid on the fact that he 
had gone to Heaven, and these sentiments were 
regarded as so incontrovertibly proper that it 
would have occurred to no one to find their con- 
nection incompatible. Curious as it may seem, I 
do not remember that the Small Person herself 
did. An unquestioning acceptance of all axioms 
was the feature of the period, and she was so full 
of the mystery of the Strange Thing itself that 
she could contemplate nothing less, though she 
knew that she gained nothing by contemplating 
that. 



The Strange Thing 169 

But though she had seen it and so had the 

o 

others, though they had looked down at its rigid- 
ity, and touched its coldness with their warm 
hands, though it had come into their very midst 
-to Alfie Burns, who was nobody particular, and 
who had played and clone his sums wrong just 
like the rest of them they knew it could not 
come to any of themselves ; they did not say so, 
of course, but they were quite secure in it, and 
were not afraid at all. 

For the Small Person, perhaps, it was well that 
it was not very long before it came again. I do 
not know how long. But the second time it 
wore another face, and was touching but not 
grewsome. And it was better to see that it might 
be so, than to remember always the grimness of 
the ugly, dreary room better for anyone, far, 
far better for a child with a vivid mind. 

In the school there was a department for 
younger children, quite little ones, who learned 
their alphabet and played kindergarten games. 
They had a room of their own and a teacher of 
their own. There were some attractive mites 
among 1 them, and " the older ones," as the others 

o 

called themselves with a feeling of great matu- 
rity, had favorites and pets. 

There was a tiny one who was the pet of all- 
such a pretty pet and such a laughing one ! She 
was three years old and had golden-brown eyes 



170 The One I Knew the Best of All 

and little nut-brown curls on her small round 
head. She was a merry thing, full of dimples, 
and her brown-gold eyes were large and love- 
compelling, and had long curling lashes. The 
child pet of a school full of girls is a much loved 
thing. This one was adored. Her lovers never 
tired of praising her prettiness, her quaint little 
movements, her eyelashes, her curls and eyes. 
She was a little lovely one, and her tiny name 
was Selina. 

" Look at her ! ' everyone would exclaim when 
a Kindergarten game was being played. " Oh, see 
how pretty she is when she puts her teenty elbow 
on her knee and leans her cheek on her hand to 
show how the laborer rests. She keeps opening 
her eyes and laughing. She can't keep them 
shut." 

This very game was played one Friday after- 
noon, and she was at her very prettiest and 
quaintest. Earlier in the day, it was remem- 
bered afterward, she had been a little dull and 
had not seemed quite herself, but in the after- 
noon she had brilliant rose-colored cheeks, and 
her merry eyes were like stars. 

" Isn't she a sweetie ? ' said the girls. " Isn't 
she a little rogue? Look at her peeping under 
her eyelashes." 

When the Small Person came to school on 
Monday morning the door was opened for her 



The Strange Thing 171 

by one of the elder girls of the family. She had 
a curious shocked look in her eyes. 

u Has anyone told you ? ' she exclaimed. 
" Have you heard about it?' 

" Heard what ? ' the Small Person faltered, 
startled by her expression. 

" Little Selina is dead ! Pretty little Selina ! " 

And so the Strange Thing came again ! 

This time the difficulty was to believe it to feel 
that it could be true. 

" Little Selina ! ' the Small Person gasped. 
" She she cant be ! Who told you ? On Fri- 
day she was playing the Haymaker game and she 
kept peeping she could not keep her eyes shut 
and we laughed so ! Selina ! ' 

o 

" It's quite true," was the answer. " She was 
ill then, though she had such red cheeks. Janey 
said she hadn't seemed bright in the morning. 
They say she hadn't been quite herself for a day 
or so. She died at six this morning, and they 
sent word by a servant. She was crying, poor 
girl ! " 

What a Strange Thing it was ! 

In the school-room the children looked at each 
other amazed. They were amazed that was it. 
Each new comer uttered the same exclamation, 
" Selina? " and then " Selina ! ' As if it were too 
incredible. They kept telling each other how 
merry she had been when she played the Hay- 



172 The One I Knezv the Best of All 

maker game, how rosy her cheeks had looked, 
how roguishly she had laughed. They kept 
repeating that she was such a pretty little thing 
and everybody loved her. And somehow there 
was a tendency even in the common ones to 
look bewildered and thoughtful, and exclaim, in 
a puzzled, questioning undertone, " Selina ? Se- 
tt H a ! " 

The Small Person found she was saying it to 
herself all through the day. It had seemed 
extraordinary that Alfie should be taken away, 
even though they had all known about the heart 
disease. It had been extraordinary because the 
Strange Thing seemed to have nothing to do 
with such people as themselves to be only pos- 
sible to people somehow quite remote and unlike 
them. But there seemed a reason why Selina 
should not be taken, the reason of herself, her 
pretty, buoyant, dimpling, vivid self. What had 
the awful thing to do with that ! It was unnat- 
ural. 

" Selina ? Selina ! " 

I think it was the velvet-eyed little Best Friend 
and her younger sister who went with the Small 
Person to the child's home, to see her, as they 
had seen Alfie. It was the first time they had 
ever been to the house. The children saw very 
little of each other away from the school-room, 
and Selina only appeared on the small horizon 



The Strange Thing 173 

when her nurse brought her to the front door 
and left her to pursue her tiny studies. 

Of this house, also, the Small Person never 
remembered anything- afterward but one room, 
which has remained a picture hung in the gallery 
of life. 

It was not a large room. It was a nursery bed- 
room, perhaps, though there was no bed in it, 
only a little cot standing in the middle of it, and 
prettily draped with white. 

Everything in the room was white, covered 
with pure white, hung with white, adorned with 
white flowers mostly white rosebuds very ten- 
der little ones. It seemed like a little chapel of 
snow, where one felt one must breathe softly. 

And under the snowy draperies of the small cot, 
among rosebuds which seemed to kiss it with their 
petals, there was another little white thing lying. 

Selina ? Sclina ! 

Ah, little love ! how pretty and innocent and 
still the Strange Thing had left her. It could 
not have hurt her. She was not changed, only 
that she was somehow lovelier. There were 
rosebuds in her hands, and on her pillow ; her 
eyelashes looked very long as they lay upon her 
cheek, and in a still, strange little way she was 
smiling. In the white room, among the white 
flowers, looking down at her fair child-sleep 
through tears, one was not the least afraid. 



174 The One I Knew the Best of All 

The Small Person was vaguely glad of some- 
thing, and somehow she knew that she was not 
" sorry for her." She looked, and looked, and 



* ^*25g?- -<y / 
<.&?*&(: x, / 






.. . 




. -V : 



^; 
/^ * 




looked again, with tenderly brooding eyes. She 
did not want to go away. If the Strange Thing 
only left one a soft, white creature in a white 
room, among flowers, and smiling like that, at 
what it had showed one, it was not so awful. 



The Strange Tiling 175 

What a pretty, pretty smile as if she was keep- 
ing a little secret to herself. 

" May we kiss her?' the Small Person asked, 
in a low voice, timidly. 

"Yes, dear," was the answer. 

And she bent over and kissed her round cheek 
where the dimples used to play. And the cold- 
ness was only the soft coldness of a flower. 

And afterward they went away, talking to- 
gether in low, tender, child whispers. And they 
told each other again what a pretty little thing 
she had been, and that everybody had loved her. 
And the Small Person remembered how in the 
game she had made everybody laugh, because 
she could not keep still, and could not keep her 
eyes closed. But now now, she was quite still, 
and she could keep her pretty eyes shut. 

And this had been done by the Strange Thing. 



CHAPTER XL 

''Mamma' and the First One 

THE chief tone of her world was given to it by 
the gentle little lady who was her mother the 
most kind and simple English lady of a type the 
most ingenuous and mild. What the Small Per- 
son felt most clearly was that " Mamma" was so 
entirely and sweetly this gentle and kindly lady. 
Of course it had not been necessary to formulate 
this, even in thought, but it was an existent fact 
which made life pleasant. One could not have 
borne existence even as a Small Person if one's 
" Mamma "had not been a lady. There were 
Mammas who were not quite so nice who wore 
more ribbons in their caps and who could be seen 
at a greater distance, and who had not such soft 
voices, and such almost timidly kind smiles and 
words for everyone. The Small Person was al- 
ways thankful after interviews with such Mammas 
that her own was the one who belonged to her, 
and to whom she belonged. 

It was so interesting to hear of the days when 
she had been a little girl also. 

" When I was a little girl and we lived at Patri- 



"Mamma" and the First One 177 

croft- was the slender link which formed a 
chain of many dear little stories of quite another 
world. 

She had not been Romantic. The Small Person 
had a vague feeling that she herself might have 
been the subject of memoirs of a sweet and not 
awe-inspiring kind. " Mamma " could never have 
been denunciatory. She seemed a little like Ame- 
lia Sedley, but not so given to weeping and not so 
silly. There were two little water-color pictures, 
which hung in the drawing-room. They were 
supposed to represent, ideally, Amy Robsart and 
Jeanie Deans. They had sweet pink faces and 
brown ringlets, and large, gentle blue eyes. They 
were very much alike, and the Small Person was 
very fond of them because Mamma had one day 
said : " Poor Papa bought them before we were 
married because he thought they were like me. 
1 used to wear my hair like the picture of Jeanie 
Deans." 

To the Small Person this surrounded them with 
a halo. The vision of " Poor Papa " overcome by 
youthful ardor before he was married to Mamma, 
and tenderly buying these two little pictures be- 
cause they were like her, and had ringlets, like 
hers, was simply delightful to her. How could 
she help loving them ? 

Was Mamma clever ? No, I think not. The 
Small Person never asked herself the question. 

12 



178 The One I Knew the Best of All 



That would have been most sacrilegious unlov- 
ingness. And why should one have thought of 
asking: more of her than that she should be 

o 

" Mamma." One would not ask one's self if an 
Angel were clever. And, also, one did not think 

of wondering 
how many 
years she had 
lived. She 
was just the 
age of a mam- 
ma. Only as 
long as she 
lived her 
mind was like 
that of an in- 
nocent, serious, 
young girl --with 
a sort of maidenly 



matronliness. Not be- 

/ 

ing at all given to elo- 
quence or continuous con- 
versation of any sort, it was 
a wonderful thing that her 
mere existence near one meant so much that it 
soothed headaches, and made sore-throats bear- 
able ; that it smoothed stormy nursery seas, and 
removed the rankling sting of wrong and injus- 
tice. One could have confronted any trial, sup- 




-and the First One 179 

ported by the presence of this little, gentle, very 
ingenuous and unworldly Mamma. 

She was a sweetly feminine thing, and her liter- 
ature had been as feminine as herself. The Small 
Person found out about that. She had read " im- 
proving " works when she was a young lady. She 
had a great respect for Miss Martineau and Mrs. 
Ellis and her " Daughters of England." She had 
read poems in Keepsakes, and knew all the beau- 
ties of Dr. Watts. Mrs. Barbauld she revered, 
and a certain book called " Anna Lee, the Maiden, 
Wife, and Mother," she admired most sweetly. 

" But you ought not to read tales so much," 
she used to say, with a gently heroic sense of ma- 
ternal duty, to the Small Person. " You ought 
to read something Improving." 

" What is Improving, Mamma ? ' the Small 
Person would reply. 

Gentle little lady Mamma! I am afraid she was 
vague though the Small Person did not realize 
that it was vagueness she always observed in her 
blue eye when she asked this question. The an- 
swer was always the same : 

" Oh ! history and things, love. History is al- 
ways improving." 

The Small Person used to wonder why His- 
tory particularly. It was never suggested that 
grammar, geography, and arithmetic were stimu- 
lating to the mind but history always. And she 



180 The One I Knew the Best of All 

knew all " Pinnock's England ' and " Pinnock's 
Rome ' and somebody else's " Greece." Could 
there have been in Mamma herself a lurking 
fondness for the Story which was not " improv- 
ing " ? There were three or four mentioned at 
different periods which she seemed to remember 
interesting details of with remarkable clearness. 
"The Scottish Chiefs," "The Children of the 
Abbey," u Fatherless Fanny," " The Castle of 
Otranto," and "The Mysteries of Udolpho." 
Certain incidents in them being inadvertently 
described to the Small Person so inflamed her 
imagination that the most burning desire of her 
life was to be the happy possessor of these rich 
treasures. It was years before she came upon 
them, one by one, and then somehow their glory 
had departed. The mysterious secreted relative 
wandering about the cloister's ruins had lost her 
sorrowful eerie charm, the ghastly, apparently 
murdered victim, concealed by the heavy curtain, 
had no impressiveness, and it was not really a 
shock when he turned out to be only wax. Emily 
-the beautiful persecuted Emily in " Udolpho ' 
-was actually tedious in her persistent habit of 
" giving vent to her feelings in the following 
lines." But when Mamma told bits of them with 
a certain timidity engendered by their romantic 
lack of the element of " improvement," what 
thrillingly suggestive things they were ! 



" Mamma' -and the First One 181 

What a beautiful thing this pure and gentle 
heart was quite as simple as the heart of a child, 
and filled with sweetest, lenient kindness to all 
things ! What a beautiful thing for a little child 
to grow up in the mild sunshine of ! What brill- 
iant strength could have had such power if it 
had not had its sweetness too ? How did one 
learn from it that to be unkindly and selfish was 
not only base but somehow vulgar too and that 
the people who were not born in the " back 
streets ' naturally avoided these things as they 
avoided dropping their h's and speaking the dia- 
lect? 

Nobody ever said " Noblesse oblige," nobody 
ever said anything about " Noblesse " at all, and 
yet one knew that in certain quiet, unpretentious 
houses the boys and girls must be " ladies and 
gentlemen," and to be so one must feel inadmissi- 
ble some faults it was by no means difficult to fall 
into. There is, after all, a certain quaint dignity 
in the fixed qualities understood by some English 
minds in the words " lady ' and " gentleman." 
The words themselves have been vulgarized, and 
cheapened, and covered with odd gildings and 
varnish, and have been made to mean so many 
objectionable things, that it has seemed better 
taste to let them drop out of fashion but once 
their meaning in simple, gentle minds was some- 
thing very upright and fine. They were used in 



1 82 The One I Knew the Best of All 

this sense in the clays of the Small Person at 
least she believed them to mean nothing less. 

In searching the past there is no memory of 
any lecture delivered by " Mamma " on the sub- 
ject of good morals, good manners, and good 
taste. Anything from " Mamma ' in the nature 
of a harangue would have seemed incongruous. 
Perhaps it was because through all the years she 
never was unkind or ungenerous, because she was 
good to everything even to disreputable and ob- 
jectionable stray cats and lost dogs brought in- 
with bursts of enthusiasm for refuge ; because 
she never uttered a vulgarly sharp or spiteful, 
envious word, or harbored an uncharitable 
thought perhaps it was because of these things 
that one grew up knowing that her unspoken 
creed would be : 

" Be kind, my dear. Try not to be thoughtless 
of other people. Be very respectful to people 
who are old, and be polite to servants and good 
to people who are poor. Never be rude or vul- 
gar. Remember to be always a little lad}^." 

It was all so simple and so quite within the 
bounds of what one could do. And, all summed 
up and weighed, the key-note of it was but one 
thing: " Be kind, my dear be kind." 

There was an innocent, all-embracing prayer, 
which the entire Nursery said unfailingly ever} 7 
night and morning, through all its childhood- 



"Mamma* -and the First One 183 

some of them, perhaps, far beyond childhood, be- 
cause of the tender homely memories it brought 
back. One of them, at least, in after years, when 
the world had grown to wider boundaries and 
faith was a less easy thing, found a strange, sad 
pleasure in saying it because its meaning was so 
full of trustingness, and so sweet. 

Surely it was " Mamma ' who was responsible 
for it " Mamma'" who had a faith so perfect and 
simple, and who, in asking for good, could have 
left out in her praying nothing, however poor 
and small. 

As she grew to riper years the Small Person 
often pondered on it and found it touching, in its 
all-embracingness. 

It began with the Lord's Prayer the first 
words of this being said devoutly as, " Our 
Father, 'chart in Heaven," and the more sloivly one 
said it all, the more devout one was supposed to 
be. The child who " gabbled ' her prayers was 
" a wicked thing." It was very awful, when one 
was tired or preoccupied, to find out that one was 
" gabbling." Discovering this, one went back and 
began again, with exceeding deliberation. 

But it was the little prayer which came after 
this which so took in all the world leaving out 
none in its blessing : 

" God bless Papa and Mamma," it began, lov- 
ingly, " and Grandpapas and Grandmammas ' 



184 The One I Knew the Best of All 

though when the Small Person first remembered 
it the Grandpapas were gone, and one could only 
say, " and Grandmammas," because the Grand- 
papas had " gone to Heaven," and so needed no 
praying for, because in Heaven everybody was 
happy and God took care of them without being 
asked every night and morning by the wearers of 
the little white night-gowns, by the little white 
beds, in the Nursery. " God bless my Brothers 
and Sisters," it went on, lovingly again, " and 
my Uncles and Aunts and Cousins." And then, 
that none might escape and be forgotten, " Pray 
God bless all my Relations and Friends," and 
then, in an outburst of sympathy, " Pray God, 
bless Everybody." And modestly, at the end- 
and with the feeling that it was really a great 
deal to ask " And make Me a Good Child for 
Jesus Christ's Sake. Amen." 

One felt, with all one's little heart, that this 
could be only done " For Jesus Christ's Sake ' 
because one knew how far one was removed from 
the little girl who died of scarlet fever in the 
Memoirs. 

And then one finished with three dear little 
verses which seemed to provide for all in one's 
child-life and which remembered one's friends 
again, and took one even to the gates of Paradise. 

In Nursery parlance it was always spoken of as 
" Jesus tender." 



"Mamma* -and the First One 185 

" Did you say your 'Jesus tender ' ? " was some- 
times sternly demanded by one little white Night- 
gown of another. " You were such a little bit of 

o 

a time kneeling down, if you said it you must 
have gabbled." 
It was this : 

" Jesus, tender Shepherd, hear me, 
Bless Thy little lamb to-night ; 
Through the darkness be Thou near me, 
Keep me safe till morning light." 

That seemed to make everything so safe when 
the gas was turned down. 

" Through the Darkness be Thou near me " 

the strange, black Dark, when anything might 
come out of corners, or from under the bed, or 
down the chimney, and if one heard a sound, one 
could only huddle one's head under the clothes 
and lie listening with beating heart. But if 
" Jesus tender ' was there, and would keep one 
safe till morning light, one need not be really 
afraid of anything. And then came the little 
thankful part : 

" Through this day Thy hand hath led me, 

And I thank Thee for Thy care. 
Thou hast warmed and clothed and fed me, 
Listen to my evening prayer." 



1 86 The One I Knew the Best of All 

And then the last, where the poor little sins were 
asked mercy for, and the friends were embraced 
again, and one was left happy taken care of- 
dwelling in Paradise with the Tender one : 

" Let my sins be all forgiven, 

Bless the friends I love so well, 
Take me, when I die, to Heaven, 
Happy there with Thee to dwell. 
For Jesus Christ's sake. Amen." 

It was very sweet and very trusting full of be- 
lief, and full of love and kind faith in and for all 
the world. And whatever of faith might fade in 
the glare of maturity, which made all things too 
real or too vague, to say simply every night and 
morning through a whole childhood, words as 
confiding and as kind must be a good begin- 
ning for an innocent life for any life, however 
spent. 

The First One a development of that notable 
seventh year was written one Sunday evening 
in Summer, when it was clear twilight, and the 
church bells were ringing. She sat at the Sitting 
Room Table which for the time was merely a 
table made to rest things upon. She was fond of 
the act of scribbling, and frequently had filled 
pages in blank books with lines of angular let- 
ter m's joined together. The doing it gave her 
the feeling of writing with rapidity and ease 



"Mamma' -and the First One 187 

as older people did. There was something in 
the free movement of the flying pen which 
she liked extremely. The long summer twilight 
of these Sunday evenings was always emotion- 
ally impressive to her. She did not know why, 
but that they seemed so quiet, and the house 
was so still, and one did not play with the Doll 
or run about. She had never been forbidden 
secular amusement, or talked to rigidly, but some- 
how there were certain things one felt it was not 
exactly proper to do on Sunday. 

Sunday, in fact, was rather a nice day. After 
breakfast one was dressed with such care for 
church. The Small Person and her two sisters, 
exceedingly fresh as to frocks and hats, and ex- 
ceedingly glossy as to curls, walked to church 
Avith Mamma and the Governess and the two 
brothers, whose Eton collars presented their most 
unimpeachable spotlessness. 

The sermon was frequently rather long, but 
one did one's best by it in the way of endeavor- 
ing to understand what it was about. The Small 
Person was dissatisfied with her character be- 
cause she was conscious that her mind frequently 
wandered, and that she found herself imagining 
agreeable scenes of a fictitious nature. She also 
found that when she checked these sinful mun- 
dane fancyings and forced herself to strictly fol- 
low the Reverend James Jones, she was guilty 



1 88 The One I Knew the Best of All 

of impatient criticism, entirely unbecoming a lit- 
tle girl. The literary ideal of a perfect little girl 
in those clays a spotless little girl, who, being 
snatched away in her youth by scarlet fever, 
would create quite a commotion in Heaven by 
the rectitude of her conduct was the painful 
young person who had memoirs written about 
her, relating the details of her sufferings and the 
Example she had been to every one about her- 
particularly to all other children who were not of 
the moral elite as it were. The Small Person had 
extremely high standards. There was nothing she 
would have been so thankful for as to find that 
she might attain being an Example and suitable 
for memoirs but she had an humble, sorrowing 
consciousness that such aspirations were in vain. 
This was evident on the face of it. The little 
girls in memoirs could not have been guilty oi 
the vileness of " not listening to the sermon." 
They heard every word of it, and preached it 
over again to their companions on the way home, 
by way of inspiring them to religious enthu- 
siasm. They never thought of anything but the 
preacher while they were in church, and they 
never read anything but the Bible, and were in 
the kindly habit of repeating chapters of it aloud 
to people left alone with them. They always 
knew a text to say when anyone did anything 
wrong, and it always converted the erring one 



II 



Mamma' -and the First One 189 



upon the spot. " Thou shalt not steal," they said 
solemnly, when a boy was going to steal an ap- 
ple, and he never thought of such a thing again. 
" Thou, God, seest me," they said when Tommy 
had taken a lump of sugar, and was revelling in 
the crime, and he immediately put it back into 
the bowl probably very much the worse for wear 
-but he never looked at the sugar-bowl again so 
long as he lived. 

The Small Person felt she could not accom- 
plish these things that there was a fatal earthly 
flaw in her nature. Perhaps it was because she 
was Romantic, and no memoir had ever been 
written about a little girl who was Romantic. 
Whether it preserved them against scarlet fever 
or asrainst the memoir she did not ask. But 

o 

sometimes she had a sad lurking fear that if a 
girl out of a memoir had heard her dramatic 
performances with the Doll she would have said 
to her : 

" That is not a bark. It is only an Arm Chair. 
You are not playing on a lute made of silver. 
You are only tooting on a tin whistle Avhich cost 
a penny. You are not a gentleman. You are 
a little girl. And you are saying what is not 
true. These are all lies and liars go to Hell." 

It made her feel inclined to burst into tears 
when she thought of it so she thought of it as 
little as possible. This may have indicated a 



The One I Knew the Best of All 

shifty irresponsibility of nature or a philosophic 
discretion. She could not live without the Doll. 
She felt it sad that she was not made to be an Ex- 
ample, but she tried to be as unobjectionable as 
was compatible with her inferiority and lack of 
fine qualities. 

And, somehow, she liked Sunday. Having 
had another Mamma she might have disliked it 
greatly, but as it existed in her life, it had rather 
the air of a kind of peaceful festival. She her- 
self was in those days too unconscious to realize 
that it combined with its spiritual calm certain 
mild earthly pleasures which made an excellent 
foundation for its charm. One did not go to 
school ; there were no lessons to learn ; the chaos 
of the Nursery was reduced to order ; the whole 
house looked nice and quiet ; one was so special- 
ly spotless in one's best frock ; there was always 
such a nice pudding for dinner (never rice, or 
bread-pudding, but something with an aspect 
of novelty). For a little while after dinner one 
remained in the drawing-room, and sometimes 
Mamma who belonged to the generation when 
" the figure ' was not a matter treated lightly, 
would surest that the Small Person and her two 

o o 

sisters should lie quite flat upon their backs, upon 

the hearth-rug, "for fifteen minutes by the clock." 

" It is very good for your backs, my dears," 

she would say. " It makes them straight. It is 



" Mamma' -and the First- One 191 

very important that a young lady should hold 
herself well. When we were girls your aunt 
Emma and I back-boards were used." 

The Small Person quite delighted in this cere- 
mony. It was so nice to stretch one's plump 
body on the soft rug with the sense of its being 
rather a joke and hear about the time when 
people used back-boards. It appeared that there 
had been school-mistresses genteel, extremely 
correct ladies who kept boarding-schools who 
had been most rigorous in insisting on the use 
of the back-board by their pupils. There were 
anecdotes of girls who would " poke their chins 
forward," and so were constrained to wear a 
species of collar. There was one collar indeed, 
celebrated for certain sharp-pointed things under 
the chin, which briskly reminded the young 
lady when she " poked." The knowledge that 
scholastic and maternal method had improved 
since those days, and that one would never be 
called upon to use back-boards or instruments 
suggestive of the Inquisition, was agreeable, and 
added charm to lying on the rug and turning 
one's eyes to the ormolu clock on the mantel 
every now and then, to see if the three five min- 
utes were gone. 

After that one went for a decorous saunter 
round the Square, where one always encountered 
the Best Friend and her sisters, and perhaps 



1 92 The One I Knew the Best of All 

other little girls, all in best frocks and best hats, 
and inclined to agreeable conversation. 

About four one returned to the drawing-room, 
and the event of the day took place. Everyone 
took a chair, and being given an orange, disposed 
of it at leisure and with great but joyful decorum, 
while Mamma or the Governess read aloud, 

" Where did we leave off last Sunday ? ' the 
reader would ask, turning over the leaves. 

The Small Person always knew. She revelled 
in these Sunday afternoons. During the rapture 
of their passing she heard " Ministering Chil- 
dren," " The Channings," " Mrs. Halliburton's 
Troubles," " Letters from Palmyra," and " Letters 
from Rome," an enthralling book called " Naomi," 
which depicted dramatically the siege of Jerusa- 
lem, and divers other " Sunday books." 

Yes, Sunday was a day quite set apart, and was 
really very pleasant to think of. A far more brill- 
iant woman than " Mamma" might have made it 
infinitely less an agreeable and bright memory. 
Hers was the brilliance of a sweet and tender 
heart which loved too kindly to give one dreary 
hour. 

None of the younger ones went to church in 
the evening. 

" I am afraid you might be sleepy," said 
Mamma, which was an instance of most discreet 
forethought. 



11 Mamma' -and the First One 193 

So not going to church, the Small Person had 
her evening hours in the quiet house, and liked 
them greatly. 

The form and merits of the First One have 
not remained a memory, but the emotion which 
created it is a memory very distinct indeed. As 
for the creation itself, it cannot have been of any 
consequence but that it was the First One. 

I see the Sitting Room with its look of Sunday 
neatness, the Green Arm Chair wearing a decor- 
ous air of never having braved the stormy billows, 
the table with its cloth quite straight upon it, 
and the Small Person sitting by it with pen and 
ink and an old exercise-book before her, the win- 
dow open behind her. 

The pen and ink and book were to scribble 
with, because it amused her to scribble. But all 
was so quiet around her, and the sound of the 
church-bells coming through the open windows 
was such a peaceful thing, that she sat leaning on 
the table, her cheek on her hand, listening to it. 
What is there that is so full of emotional sugges- 
tion in the sound of bells ringing in the summer 
twilight ? The Small Person did not know at all. 
But she felt very still and happy, and as if she 
wanted to say or do something new, which would 
somehow be an expression of feeling and good- 
ness, and and she did not know at all what else. 

She turned her face over her shoulder, to look 
13 



194 The One I Knew tJie Best of All 

at the sky, which showed over the tops of the 
houses in the Back Street. It w r as very beautiful 
that evening very blue, and dappled with filmy 
white clouds. It had a Sunday evening look. 

After looking at it, she turned slowly to the 
exercise-book again not with any particular in- 
tention, but reminded by the pen in her hand 
of the pleasantness of scribbling. A delightful, 
queer, and tremendously bold idea came to her. 
It was so daring that she smiled a little. 

" I wonder if I could write a piece of poetry," 
she said. " I believe I'll try." 

No one need ever know that she had attempt- 
ed anything so audacious, and she could have the 
fun of trying. There was no one in the room 
but the Green Arm Chair, and it could not be- 
tray her besides the fact that it would not if 
it could. It was such a nice old thing. It had a 
way at times of seeming to have forgotten the 
adventures of its wild and rather rackety past, 
and of seeming to exist only to hold out its arms 
benignly to receive Grandmammas. As to Pi- 
rates on the Hiffh Seas, it seemed never to have 

o 

even heard of one. 

A piece of poetry was a thing with short lines, 
and at the end of them were words which sound- 
ed alike which rhymed. 

" Down on a green and shady bed 
A modest violet grew, 



"Mamma' -and the First One 195 

Its stalk was bent, it hung its head 
As if to hide from view." 

" ' Charge, Chester, charge ! on, Stanley, on ! ' 
Were the last words of Marmion." 

" Believe me, if all those endearing young charms 

Which I gaze on so fondly to-day 
Were to fleet by to-morrow and fade in these arms 
Like fairy dreams gone to decay." 

" How doth the little busy bee 

Improve each shining hour ; 
It gathers honey all the day, 
From every opening flower." 

These were pieces of poetry, and they gave one 
something to build on. " Bed, Head, Led, Shed 
-Charms, Arms, Farms, Carms." No, Carms 
was not a word. Oh, " Calms ! ' And Calms 
was a real word. That seemed to open up vistas. 
It became quite exciting - - like a sort of game. 
There were words spelled differently from each 
other, it seemed, which would rhyme. And the 
church-bells went on ringing with that soft sound 
which seemed to make one think things. 

What should the piece of poetry be about? 
How pretty that ringing was ! Oh, suppose one 
tried to write a piece of poetry about the bells ! 
Bells, Shells, Tells, Sells Ring, Sing, Fling, Wing. 

And she wrote a " piece of poetry ' about the 
church-bells, and of it there is no record what- 
ever, but that it was the First One. How long it 



196 The One I Knew the Best of All 

was before she wrote another I am not at all sure. 
She did not seem to rush madly on in her down- 
ward career. 

Time could not possibly be calculated in those 
days. A month seemed to hold a Future. Any- 
thing might occur in the way of rapture du ring- 
six weeks' holiday. If one heard that a thing 
would happen " Next Year," one could not feel 
actual interest in it. " Next century ' would not 
have made it much less vague. 

But I think she was nine or ten years old when, 
on another Sunday evening, she broke forth 
again. She had read a great deal of the " Secre- 
taire ' by that time, and had found that in Maga- 
zines published for grown-up people there were 
many things to read. She had discovered that 
Punch was a source of delight, and a person of 
the name of Charles Dickens had attracted her 
attention. Perhaps the fact that she had made 
his acquaintance, and that she had discovered 
Punch had given a new flavor to her romanticisms. 
But to the last the adventures of the Doll were 
never clouded in their seriousness by any sense 
of humor. Her charm would have been lost if 
one could have treated her lightly, or made fun 
of her. She was Reality. 

The Sunday evening when she wrote her next 
piece of poetry was a dark and stormy one. It 
was a winter evening. The rain was falling and 



"Mamma' -and the First One 197 

the wind howling outside. Her sisters were in 
bed, everyone else but one servant at church, and 
she was sitting in the drawing-room. 

She had pen and ink before her again, without 
any particular reason, except that she wanted 
something to do, and again it was the sounds out- 
side which gave her her impetus. There were no 
church-bells. They had stopped ringing long 
before, and the wintry storm had begun after 
everyone must have been safely in church. It 
was the sound of the wind which moved her this 
time. It sounded all the more weird, as it rushed 
wailing round the houses, because she was quite 
alone. Sometimes it seemed to exhaust itself in 
sounds like mournful cries heard very far off. 
That particular sound had always affected her 
very much. When she had been a little child 
lying awake in the Nursery bedroom she had 
been heart-broken by a fancy of a baby lost in the 
darkness of the night and storm, and wandering 
alone, crying, crying for someone to find it. 

This Sunday night it made her melancholy. 
Even the cheerful sounds of the bright fire of 
blazing coal were not enough to overpower the 
feeling. And she felt so alone that she began to 
wish " Mamma" and the Governess would come 
home from church, and wondered how they 
would get through the rain. It seemed lonely 
when the wind sounded like that. 



198 77/6' One I Knew t/ie Best of All 

And suddenly, as a means of distracting her- 
self, she began to write another " piece of poetry." 

It began by being a very harrowing thing. 
The immortal whole was never seen by her after 
that night, but the flavor of the first verse was so 
fine that it would not be easy to forget it. The 
" Secretaire " had given her an acquaintance with 
more than one darkling poem, recording and im- 
mortalizing the sentiments of lofty-minded per- 
sons who were the victims of accursed fate and 
who in the depths of their woe were capable of 
devoting many verses to describing their exalted 
scorn of things in general- -particularly suns 
which would unfeelingly persist in shining, stars 
that continued heartlessly to remain bright, and 
skies whose inconsiderate blueness could not be 
too scathingly condemned. And the very lofti- 
ness of their mental altitude was the cause of 
their being isolated from the " hollow world." 
They were always " alone." Alone. That was a 
good idea. The piece of poetry should be called 
"Alone." And the wind should be heard in it. 
How it wailed at that particular moment. And 
this was the soul-stirring result : 

ALONE. 

Alone alone ! The wind shrieks " Alone ! " 

And mocks my lonely sorrow, 
" Alone alone ! " the trees seem to moan, 

" For thee there's no bright to-morrow." 



"Mamma' -and the First One 199 

There were no trees but that was immaterial. 
And there was no sorrow but that also was of 
nc consequence whatever. There was, however, 
a touch of unconscious realism in the suggestion 
of the to-morrow not wearing a cheerful aspect. 
The nex\t day was Monday, and it would be 
necessary to go to school again, which was a 
prospect never holding forth inducements of a 
glittering nature. She was not warmly attached 
to school. 

But the first verse really impressed her. Up 
to that time, I remember, she had never been im- 
pressed by anything she had done. The First 
One had not impressed her at all. She had only 
found it very absorbing to write it. But the tone 
of this struck her. It was the tone. It seemed so 
elevated so grown-up so like something out of 
the " Secretaire." It suggested Lord Byron. It 
seemed to begin a little like some of those things 
he had written about ladies intimating that if he 
was not very careful indeed they would fall hope- 
lessly in love with him, which might lead to most 
disastrous results, but that, being the noble creat- 
ure he was, he would be careful and "spare' 
tb^m which the Small Person always thought 
extremely nice of him, and so beautiful when ex- 
pressed in poetry. But she had not come to the 
lady in her poetry. In fact, she had not thought 
of her at all, which was quite remiss, as she had 



2OO The One I Knew the Best of All 
imagined the sufferer whom the wind shrieked at 

o 

to be a gentleman. Perhaps such had been the 
feelingfs of Ouentinravenswoodmaltravers when 

O fZt 

the eldest Miss Grantham's papa had disapproved 
of him. Gentlemen in that situation, in the 
" Secretaire," always felt that trees and things 
were taunting them. But it was cheering to re- 
flect that he had had a <4 bright to-morrow " on the 
occasion when he drove home from church with 
the eldest Miss Grantham's head on his shoulder. 

Oh, it really was quite a beautiful piece of 
poetry at least the beginning of it was. And she 
sat and gazed at it respectfully. 

I have wondered since then if one has not rea- 
son to congratulate her on the thing which hap- 
pened next, and on the result of it. Perhaps 
Punch and the witticisms in the grown-up maga- 
zines, and perhaps the tone of thought of the gen- 
tleman of the name of Dickens were her salva- 
tion. If it had been possible for her to Avrite a 
second verse as harrowing as the first and to 
complete her piece of poetry with the same senti- 
ments carried to the bitter end, this being re- 
peated through her ripening years and giving 
tone to them, it seems not impossible that the 
effect upon her cha.racter might have been a little 
lowering, or at least not of the most bracing nat- 
ure. 

But this was what happened. Though a wildly 



" Mamma' -and the First One 201 

romantic, she was a healthy and cheerful-minded 
Small Person, and intense as was her reverence 
for this first verse she found she could not possibly 
write another. She tried and tried in vain. She 
frowned gloomily, and listened to the wind howl- 
ing. She thought of the " Corsair," and the ladies 
Lord Byron had " spared." She strove to depict 
to herself the agonies of Quentinravenswoodmal- 
travers before Miss Grantham's papa relented. 
But it was no use. She became more and more 
cheerful, and at last found herself giving it up 
with something like a giggle, because it suddenly 
struck her as rather funny that she was sitting 
there trying so hard to " think of something sor- 
rowful." 

And it occurred to her that she would try to 
make it into something amusing. 

It is quite possible that unconscious cerebra- 
tion connected with some humorous poems in 
Punch, or the grown-up magazines, guided her. 
She wrote the rest of it and there were a num- 
ber of verses quite rapidly, and with great en- 
joyment. She laughed a great deal as she was 
doing it. It was quite a primitive and aged idea 
she used, but it seemed intensely amusing to her. 
The gentleman who had begun by being mocked 
and shrieked at by the winds and trees developed 
into an unmarried gentleman whose bachelor- 
hood exposed him to many domestic vicissitudes 



202 The One I Knew the Best of All 







and un- 
pleasant- 
nesses. He 
seemed a very 
hapless gentle- 
man, indeed, and his 
situation was such that 
one did not wonder that 

the winds in the first verse " seemed to moan" at 
him, even though they intended it for another 
gentleman. 

She finished the last verse in a burst of ecstatic 



"Mamma' -and the First One 203 

low giggling. When it was all done she did not 
think of respecting it or admiring it at all ; it did 
not impress her, it simply made her laugh. 

I wonder if it can have really been at all actu- 
ally funny. At that age one laughs so easily. I 
know nothing about the verses but that there was 
an interesting incident connected with them, and 
that they made someone else laugh. 

Just as she finished them " Mamma ' came 
home from church, and hearing the front door- 
bell ring she took her papers off the table. It 
would not have done to let " the boys " know she 
had been trying to write poetry. They would 
have made her life a burden to her. 

But " Mamma " was different. Mamma always 
liked to be told about things, and perhaps the 
verses would make her laugh, too. It was always 
nice to make her laugh. 

So she took the exercise-book under her arm, 
and w r ent upstairs with it, still flushed and elated 
by the excitement of composition. 

Mamma was standing before the dressing-table 
taking off her nice little black bonnet. She never 
wore anything but black after " Poor Papa " died, 
though he died young. 

She turned, smiling, as the Small Person ap- 
proached with the exercise-book under her arm. 

" Well, my dear," she said. " What have you 
got there ? ' 



204 The One I Knew the Best of All 

" I've got a piece of poetry," said the Small 
Person. " I want to read it to you and see if you 
don't think it's funny." 

She forgot to say anything about having writ- 
ten it herself. She was so full of it and so ea^er 

o 

to try it on Mamma that it seemed unnecessary 
to say it was her own. Just warm from the writ- 
ing of it, she took it for granted that it was all 
understood. 

She looked so elated and laughing that Mam- 
ma laughed too. 

" What is it ? " she asked. 

" Let me read it to you," said the Small Per- 
son. And she began. " It's called * Alone/ ' she 
said. 

She began with the melancholy verse and did 
her best by it. Mamma looked a little mysti- 
fied at first, but when the second verse began 
she smiled ; at the third she laughed her pret- 
ty laugh ; at the fourth she exclaimed " How 
funny!' at the fifth and sixth she laughed more 
and more, and by the time all the others were 
finished she was laughing quite uncontrollably. 
The Small Person was flushed with delight and 
was laughing too. 

" Do you think it's funny ? ' she asked. 

" Funny ! ' exclaimed Mamma. " Oh, it is very 
funny ! Where did you find it ? Did you copy 
it out of one of the periodicals?' 



1 

" Mamma ' -and the First One 205 

Then the Small Person realized that Mamma 
did not know who had done it, and she felt rather 
shy. 

" Where did you get it ? " repeated Mamma. 

The Small Person suddenly realized that there 
was an unexpected awkwardness in the situation. 
It was as if she had to confess she had been se- 
creting something. 

She became quite red, and answered almost 
apologetically, looking rather sheepishly at Mam- 
ma. 

" I didn't get it from anywhere." She hesi- 
tated. " I thought you knew. I I wrote it my- 
self." . 

Mamma's face changed. She almost dropped 
her bonnet on the floor, she was so astonished. 

" You ! " she exclaimed, looking almost as if she 
was a little frightened at such an astounding de- 
velopment. " You wrote it, my dear ? Are you 
in earnest ? Why, it seems impossible ! ' 

" But 1 did, Mamma," said the Small Person, 
beaming with delight at success so unexpected 
and intoxicating. " I really did. My own self. 
I was sitting in the drawing-room by myself. 
And I wanted to do something because it was so 
lonely and the wind made such a noise. And I 
began to write and I made it mournful at first. 
And then I couldn't go on with it, so I thought 
I'd make it funny. See, here it is in the exercise- 



206 The One I Knew the Best of All 

book with all the mistakes in it. You know you 
always keep making mistakes when you write 
poetry." 




Dear Mamma had never written poetry. It was 
revealed afterward that " Poor Papa" had done 
something of the sort before he was married. But 
never Mamma. And the rest of the children- 
Aunt Emma's children and Aunt Caroline's and 
Uncle Charles's had never shown any tendencies 
of the kind. And the Square children never did 
it. I think she was a little alarmed. She may 



" Mamma' -and the First One 207 

privately have been struck with a doubt as to its 
being quite healthy. I am afraid she thought it 
was enormously clever and, in those days, one 
not infrequently heard darkling stories of children 
who were so clever that " it flew to the brain," 
with fatal results. And yet, whatever her startled 
thoughts were, she was undisguisedly filled with 
delight and almost incredulous admiration. She 
glanced at the exercise-book and looked up from 
it quite blushing herself with surprise and pleas- 
ure. 

" Well, my dear," she said, " you have taken me 
by surprise, I must confess. I never thought of 
such a thing. It why, it is so clever ! ' 

And she put her arms about the overwhelmed 
and ecstasized Small Person and kissed her. And 
for some reason her eyes looked quite oddly bright, 
and the Small Person, delighted though she was, 
felt a queer little lump for a moment in her 
throat. 

This being, I suppose, because they were both 
feminine things, and could not even be very much 
delighted without being tempted to some quaint 
emotion. 



CHAPTER XII. 
"Edith Somerville" -and Raw Turnips 

I FIND it rather interesting to recall that, hav- 
ing had the amusement of writing the poem and 
the rapturous excitement of finding it was a suc- 
cess with Mamma, the Small Person did not con- 
cern herself further about it. It is more than 
probable that it had a small career of its own 
among her friends and relatives; but of that she 
seems to have heard nothing but that it was read 
to a mature gentleman who pronounced it " clever." 
She did not inquire into the details and was given 
none of them. This was discreet enough on the 

o 

part of the older people. She was not a self-con- 
scious, timid child, to whom constant praise was a 
necessity. She was an extremely healthy and 
joyous Small Person, and took life with ease and 
good cheer. She would have been disappointed 
if Mamma had thought her "piece of poetry' 
silly and had not laughed at all. As she had 
laughed so much and had been so pleased she 
had had all the triumph her nature craved, and 
more might have been bad for her. To have 
been led to attach any importance to the little 



"Edith Somerville' 209 

effusion or to regard it with respect would cer- 
tainly have been harmful. It is quite possible 
that this was the decision of Mamma, who proba- 
bly liked her entire unconsciousness. 

It was possibly, however, a piece of good fort- 
une for her that her first effort had not been a 
source of discouragement to her. If it had 
been, it is likely that she would have clone 
nothing more, and so would not have spent her 
early years in unconscious training, which later 
enabled her to make an honest livelihood. 

As it was, though she wrote no more poetry, 
she began to scribble on slates and in old ac- 
count-books thrilling scenes from the dramas 
acted with the Doll. It was very exciting to 
write them down, and they looked very beauti- 
ful when written particularly if the slate pencil 
was sharp but the difficulty was to get a whole 
scene on to a slate. They had a habit of not fit- 
ting, and then it was awkward. And it hap- 
pened so frequently that just at the most excit- 
ing point one's pencil would reach the very last 
line that could be crowded in and strike against 
the frame in the middle of a scene even in the 
middle of a sentence. And it destroyed the 
sentiment and the thrill so to break off in such 
a manner as this : 

" Sir Marmuduke turned proudly away. The 

haughty blood of the Maxweltons sprang to his 
14 



2io The One I Knew the Best of All 

check. Ethelbertii's heart, beat wildly. She 
held out her snowy arms. ' Oh, Marmaduke !' 
she cried. ' Oh, Marmaduke, 1 cannot bear it,' 
and she burst- 

You cannot get in any more when you come 
to the wooden frame itself, and it was trying to 
everybody Sir Marmaduke Maxwelton included 
not to know that Ethelberta simply burst into 
tears. 

And it spoiled it to sponge it all out and con- 
tinue on a clean slate. One wanted to read it 
all together and get the whole effect at once. It 
was better in old butcher's books, because there 
was more room, though of course the cook 
never had " done with them," until there were 
only a few pages left, and even these were only 
given up because they were greasy. Sometimes 
one had to scribble between entries, and then 
it might happen that when Ethelberta, "ap- 
palled by the sight of a strong man weeping, 
bent over her lover, laying her white hand 
upon his broad shoulder, and said, * Marma- 
duke, what has grieved you so? Speak, dear- 
est, speak ! ' Sir Marmaduke turned his an- 
guished eyes upon her, and cried in heart-wrung 
tones: ' Ethelberta -- my darling --oh, that it 
should be so Onions \d. Shoulder of Mutton 

IOT." 

And old copy-books were almost as bad, 



I 4 



Edit/i Soinerville ' 211 



though one sometimes did get a few more blank 
leaves. But with her knowledge of the impas- 
sioned nature of the descendant of the Maxwel- 
tons and his way with Ethelberta when he was 
expressing his emotions freely, the Small Per- 
son could not feel that " Contentment is better 
than riches," " Honesty is the best policy," " A 
rolling stone gathers no moss," were sentiments 
likely to "burst forth from his o'er-charged 
bosom as he gazed into her violet eyes and 
sighed in tender tones ' -which not infrequent- 
ly happened to him. Yes, it was extremely dif- 
ficult to procure paper. When one's maturity 
realizes how very much there is of it in the 
world, and how much might be left blank with 
advantage, and how much one is obliged by 
social rules to cover when one would so far pre- 
fer to leave it untouched, it seems rather sad 
that an eager Small Person could not have 
had enough when she so needed it for serious 
purposes. 

But she collected all she could and covered 
it with vivid creations. It was necessary that 
she should take precautions about secreting it 
safely, however. " The boys," having in some 
unexplained way discovered her tendencies, were 
immensely exhilarated by the idea, and indulged 
in the most brilliant witticisms at her expense. 

"I say!' they would proclaim, "she's writing 



212 The One I Knew the Best of All 

a three-volumed novel. The heroine has golden 
hair that trails on the ground. Her name's Lady 
Adolphusina." 

They were not ill-natured, but a girl who was 
" romantic ' must expect to be made fun of. 
They used to pretend to have found pieces of 
her manuscript and to quote extracts from them 
when there were people to hear. 

It was great fun for the boys, but the frogs- 
I should say the Small Person did not enjoy 
it. She was privately a sensitive and intensely 
proud Small Person, and she hated it, if the 
truth were told. She was childishly frank, but 
desperately tenacious of certain reserves, of 
which the story-writing was one. She liked it 
so much, but she was secretly afraid it was a 
ridiculous thing for a little girl to do. Of course 
a child could not really write stories, and per- 
haps it was rather silly and conceited to pretend, 
even for amusement, that she was doing it. But 
she never let anyone see what she wrote. She 
would have perished rather. And it really hurt 
nobody, however silly it was. 

She used to grow hot all over when the boys 
made fun of her. She ;rew hot even if no one 

o 

heard them, and if they began before strangers 
she felt the scarlet rush not only to the roots of 
her hair but all among them and to the nape of 
her neck. She used to feel herself fly into a blaz- 



"Edith Somerville' 213 

ing rage, but the realization she began her first 
conscious experience with at two years old the 
complete realization of the uselessness of attacking 
a Fixed Fact used to make her keep still. The 
boys were a Fixed Fact. You cannot stop boys 
unless you Murder them ; and though you may 
feel for one wild, rushing moment that they 
deserve it, you can't Murder your own brothers. 
If you call names and stamp your feet they will 
tease you more ; if you burst out crying they will 
laugh and say that is always the way with girls, 
so upon the whole it seems better to try not to 
look in a rage and keep your fury inside the little 
bodice of your frock. She was too young to have 
reached the Higher Carelessness of Theosophy and 
avoid feeling the rage. She was a mild creature 
when left alone to the Doll and the Story, but 
she was capable of furies many sizes too large for 
her. Irritable she never was, murderous she had 
felt on more than one occasion when she was not 
suspected of it. She was a great deal too proud 
to " let people see." So she always hid her scraps 
of paper, and secreted herself when she was cov- 
ering them. 

Mamma knew and never catechized her about 
them in the least, which was very perfect in her. 
She doubtless knew that in a rudimentary form 
they contained the charms which enriched the 
pages of the Family Herald and the Young Ladies' 



214 The One I Knew the Best of All 

Halfpenny Journal, but she was too kind to inter- 
fere with them, as they did not seem to interfere 
with " Pinnock's England' or inspire the child 
with self-conscious airs and graces. 

My memory of them is that they were extreme- 
ly like the inspirations of the Young Ladies Half- 
penny. The heroines had the catalogued list of 
charms which was indispensable in faz Journal type 
of literature. One went over them carefully and 
left nothing out. One did not say in an indefinite, 
slipshod manner that Cecile was a blonde. One 
entered into detail and described what she " had ' 
in the way of graces. " She had a mass of silken, 
golden locks which fell far below her tiny waist in 
a shower of luxuriant ringlets. She had a straight, 
delicate nose, large, pellucid violet eyes, slender, 
arched eyebrows, lashes which swept her softly 
rounded, rose-tinted cheek, a mouth like Cupid's 
bow, a brow of ivory on which azure veins me- 
andered, pink ears like ocean shells, a throat like 
alabaster, shoulders like marble, a Avaist which one 
might span, soft, fair arms, snowy, tapering, dim- 
pled hands, and the tiniest feet in the world. She 
wore a filmy white robe, confined at her slender 
waist by a girdle of pearl and gold, and her luxu- 
riant golden tresses were wreathed with snow- 
drops." 

Heroines were not things to be passed over 
as mere trivialities or e very-day affairs. Neither 



" Edit/I Somerville ' 215 

were heroes. Sir Marmaduke Maxwelton covered 
nearly two whole slates before he was done 
with, and then entire justice was not done to the 
" patrician air which marked all of Maxwelton 
blood." 

But how entrancing it was to do it. The Small 
Person particularly revelled in the hair, and eyes, 
and noses. Noses had always struck her as being- 
more or less unsatisfactory, as a rule, but with a 
pencil in one's hand one can "chisel " them, and 
" daintily model" them ; they can be given a " de- 
licately patrician outline," a " proud aquiline 
curve," " a coquettish tilt," and be made Greek or 
Roman with a touch ; and as to hair, to be able to 
bestow " torrents ' of it, or " masses," or " coils," 
or " coronals," or " clouds," is an actual relief to 
the feelings. Out of a butcher's or greengrocer's 
book there is a limit to the size of eyes, but within 
their classic pages absolutely none. 

Edith Somerville's hair, I remember distinctly, 
was golden-brown. The weight of the " long, 
thick, heavy curls which fell almost to her knee ' 
was never stated, but my impression the cold, 
callous impression produced by a retentive mem- 
ory drawing from the shades of the past the pict- 
ure its volume made on the Small Person's mind 
-my impression would be that no mortal frame 
could have borne it about. Edith Somerville 
would have been dragged to earth by it. Her 



216 The One I Kneiv the Best of AIL 

eyes were " large, soft, violet eyes," and were 
shaded by " fringes ' almost as long and heavy 
as her hair. But neither of these advantages re- 
strained her from active adventure and emotions 
sufficiently varied and deep to have reduced her 
to Hair Restorer as a stern necessity. 

She was not created in a copy-book or recorded 
on a slate. She was Told. 

She began in school on one of the " Embroid- 
ery' Afternoons. On two or three afternoons 
each week the feminine portion of the school was 
allowed to do fancy-work- -to embroider, to 
crochet, to do tatting, or make slippers or cush- 
ions, with pink lap-dogs, or blue tulips, or Moses 
in the Bulrushes on them in wool-work and beads. 
They were delightful afternoons, and the reins of 
discipline were relaxed. 

Sometimes some one read aloud, and when this 
was not being done low-voiced talk was permitted. 

It was not an uncommon thing for children to 
say to each other : 

" Do you know any tales to tell ?" 

The Small Person, on being asked this ques- 
tion, had told something more than once. But 
being asked on this special afternoon by the little 
girl sitting next to her, she did not reply encour- 
agingly. 

" I can't think of anything to tell," she said. 

" Oh, try," said her small neighbor, whose 



"Edith Somerville' 217 

name was Kate. "Just try; you'll remember 
something." 

" I don't think I can," said the Small Person. 
" The things 1 know best seem to have gone out 
of mv head." 

J 

" Well, tell an old one, then," urged Kate. 
<4 Just anything will do. You know such a lot." 

The Small Person was making wonderful open- 
work embroidery, composed of a pattern in holes 
which had to be stitched round with great care. 
She hesitated a moment, then took a fresh needle- 
ful of cotton from the twisted coil which \vas 
kept thrown round her neck, so that it was easy 
to pull a thread out of. 

" I don't want to tell an old one," she said ; 
"but I'll tell you what I'll do, I'll make one up 
out of my head." 

" Make one out of your own head ! " said Kate, 
with excitement. " Can you ? ' 

" Yes, I can," answered the Small Person, with 
some slight awkwardness. " Don't you tell any- 
one but I sometimes make them up for my self- 
just for fun, you know and write them on slates, 
but you can't get them all in on a slate." 

" You write them ! ' Kate exclaimed in a 
breathless whisper, staring at her with doubting 
but respectful eyes. 

" Yes," the Small Person whispered back. 
" It's very easy." 



218 The One I Knew the Best of All 

"Why- gasped Kate. " Why--you're an 

Auth'rcss like Charles Dickens." 

" No, I'm not," said the Small Person, a little 
crossly, because somehow she felt rather ridicu- 
lous and pretentious. " I'm not. Of course that's 
different. I just make them up. It isn't a bit 
hard." 

" Do you make them up out of things you've 
read ? " asked Kate. 

" No, that wouldn't be any fun. I just think 
them." 

Kate gazed at her, doubtful respect mingling 
itself with keen curiosity. She edged closer to 
her. 

" Make up one now," she said, " and tell it to 
me. Nobody will hear if you speak low." 

And so began the first chapter of " Edith 
Somerville." It may have been the Small Per- 
son's liberality in the matter of the golden-brown 
hair, her lavishness as to features and complexion, 
and the depth and size of the violet eyes which 
fascinated her hearer. Suffice it to say she was 
bound as by a spell. She edged closer and closer 
and hung upon the words of the story-teller 
breathlessly. She had an animated little face and 
it became more animated with every incident. 
Her crochet-work was neglected and she made 
mistakes in it. If there was a moment's interrup- 
tion for any reason whatever, the instant the cause 



" Editk Somerville ' 219 

was removed she snuggled excitedly against the 
Small Person, saying: 

" Oh, go on, go on ! Tell some more, tell some 
more ! ' 

The Small Person became excited herself. She 
was not limited by a slate-frame and she had the 
stimulus of an enraptured audience. She " told ' 
" Edith Somerville ' all the afternoon, and when 
she left the school-room Kate followed her while 
she related it on the way home, and even stood 
and told some more at the front gate. It was not 
finished when they parted. It was not a story to 
be finished in an afternoon. It was to be con- 
tinued on the next opportunity. It was continued 
at all sorts of times and in all sorts of places. 
Kate allowed no opportunity or the ghost of one 
to slip by. 

"Just tell a little 'Edith Somerville' while 
we're waiting," she would say, whether it was in 
the few minutes before Miss Hatleigh came in, 
or in a few minutes when she was called from 
the room by some unforeseen incident, or on the 
way downstairs, or in the cloak-room, or waiting 
for the door-bell to be answered when the Small 
Person went home to her dinner or tea. It was 
not only the Embroidery Afternoons that were 
utilized, any afternoon or morning, or any hour 
would do. 

For a short time the narrative was an entire 



22O The One I Knew the Best of All 

secret. The Small IVrson was as afraid of being 
heard as she was when she entertained herself 
with the Doll. When anyone approached she 
dropped her voice very low or stopped speaking. 
11 What makes you so funny ? ' Kate used to say. 




41 I wouldn't care a bit. It's a beautiful tale." 
And somehow one of the other little girls found 
out that the beautiful tale was being told, and 
Kate was made a go-between in the matter of 
appeal. 

" Lizzie wants to know if she may listen ? ' the 
Small Person was asked, and after a little hesita- 



' ' EditJi Somerv ille ' 221 

tion she gave consent and Lizzie listened, and a 
little later one or two others attached themselves 
to the party. There were occasions when three 
or four little girls revelled in the woes and rapt- 
ures of Edith Somerville. 

The relation lasted for weeks. It began with 

o 

the heroine's infancy and included her boarding- 
school days and the adventures of all her com- 
panions of both sexes. There was a youthful fe- 
male villain whose vices were stamped upon her 
complexion. She had raven hair and an olive 
skin, and she began her career of iniquity at 
twelve years old, when she told lies about the 
nice blond girls at the boarding-school, and 
through heartless duplicity and fiendish machina- 
tions was the cause of Edith Somerville's being 

o 

put to bed for nothing. She was always found 
out in the most humiliating way and covered 
with ignominy and confusion, besides being put 
to bed herself and given pages and pages of ex- 
tra lessons to learn. But this did not discour- 
age her; she always began again. An ordinary 
boarding-school would have dismissed her and 
sent her home in charge of a policeman, but this 
school could not have gone on without her. 
Edith Somerville would have had no opportunity 
to shine at all, and her life would have become a 
flat, stale, and unprofitable affair. Nothing could 
damp the ardor of the little female villain with 



222 The One I Knew the Best of All 

the large black eyes. When they had left school, 
and Cecil Castleton, who had purple eyes and 
soft black hair, loomed up at Somerville Hall, 
with a tall, slender, graceful figure and a slender, 
silken mustache, then the female villain began to 
look about her seriously to invent new plots in 
which she could be unmasked, to the joy of all 
the blond people concerned. Cecil Castleton's 
complexion was not olive and his hair was not 
raven it was only black, and soft and wavy, and 
his eyes were purple, which quite saved him from 
being a villain. You could not be a villain if you 
had purple eyes. The female villain was natu- 
rally deeply enamored of him, and wished to sep- 
arate him from Edith Somerville. But, of course, 
it was no use. She would do things it would take 
days to tell about, and the narration of which 
would cause the school-room audience to gasp 
and turn quite pale, but Cecil Castleton always 
found her out after Edith Somerville and himself 
had suffered agonies. And it almost seemed as 
if he could scarcely have helped it. One might 
have imagined that she was extremely careful to 
commit no crime which could not be exposed. 
She was always dropping things where people 
would find them when she had been listening, 

o ' 

and she sat up at nights to keep a diary about the 
lies she told and those she intended to tell, and 
even wrote letters to her aunt that she misrht 

o 



' * Edit/i Somerville ' 223 

gloat in black and white over the miseries and es- 
trangements she was planning. Sometimes she 
even put these letters into the wrong envelopes, 
particularly when she intended to accept an in- 
vitation to take tea with Edith Somerville's bos- 
om friend. This feebleness of mind may, like 
her character, have been the result of her com- 
plexion, but it gave thrill and excitement to the 
story. 

And how the audience was enthralled! It 
would be a pleasing triumph for a story-teller of 
mature years to see such eyes, such lips, to hear 
such exclamations of delight or horror as this in- 
choate Small Person was inspired by. 

Naturally, stories told in school and at odd 
times meet with interruptions. 

" Young ladies, you are talking ! ' Miss Hat- 
leigh would say sometimes, or one would reach 
the front gate, or some one would intrude, and 
then everything stopped. When it began again 
it began with a formula. 

" And so Edith came floating li^htlv 

o o y 

down the broad old oak stairway while Cecil 
Castleton stood waiting below." 

It always began " And so." That seemed to 
join it on to what had gone before. Accordingly, 
if the Small Person paused for a moment, Kate, 
whose property she had become, and who ex- 
ploited her as it were, and always sat next to her, 



224 The O HC I Knew t/ic Best of All 

would make a little excited movement of impa- 
tience in her seat, and poke her in the side with 
her elbow. 

" And so- ' she would suggest. " And so- 
and so- Oh, do go on ! ' 

And the others would lean forward also, and 
repeat: "And so? And so?' until she began 



again. 



The history of Edith Somerville being com- 
pleted she began another romance of equal 
power. 

It was also of equal length, extending over 
weeks of relation, and at its completion she began 
another, and another, and another. There is no 
knowing how many she told, but however her 
audience varied Kate always sat next to her. 
There were never more than two or three other 
listeners. The Tale Listeners were a little exclu- 
sive and liked to keep together. 

It was through a brilliant inspiration of Kate's 
that a banquet became part of the performance. 
The Small Person was extremely fond of green 
apples very green and sour ones, such as can be 
purchased at the apple-stands only sufficiently 
early in the year to be considered unfit for human 
food. A ripe and rosy apple offered no induce- 
ments, but a perfectly green one, each crisp 
bite of which was full of sharp juice, was a thing 
to revel in. 



' ' Edith Somerville ' 225 

Knowing this taste, Kate had the adroit wit 
to arrive one afternoon with her small pocket 
bulging. 

" I've got something ! " she whispered. 

"What is it?" 

" Something to eat while you're telling ' Edith 
Somerville.' Green apples." 

They were such a rapturous success and 
seemed so inspiring in their effect that they 
founded a custom. The Listeners got into the 
habit of bringing them by turns. Green goose- 
berries were also tried and soon Kate had an- 
other inspiration. 

" If I can get a little jug downstairs," she 
whispered one afternoon, " I am going to fill it 
with water and bring it up hidden in my frock. 
And we can hide it under the form and take 
drinks out of it when no one is looking-." 

C5 

This may not appear to be a wildly riotous 
proceeding, but as jugs of water were not ad- 
mitted into the school-room and if one wanted a 
drink one went decorously downstairs first, the 
idea of a private jug and concealed libations was 
a daring and intoxicating thing. 

Only Kate would have thought of this. She 
was a little girl with a tremendous flow of spirits 
and an enterprising mind. She was sometimes 
spoken of by the authorities, rather disapprov- 
ingly, as " a Romp." 
15 



226 The Otic I Knew the Best of All 

The Romp managed the feat of bringing up 
the jug of water. It was quite thrilling to see 
her come in as if she had nothing whatever con- 
cealed behind the folds of her skirt. She walked 
carefully and showed signs of repressing giggles 
as she approached the Listeners. 

" Have you got it?" whispered the Small 
Person. 

" Yes under my frock. I'll put it under the 
form." 

It was put under the form and, as soon as it 
was considered discreet, drinks were taken sips 
out of the side of the jug, combined with green 
apples. Nobody was particularly thirsty, and if 
they had been there was plenty of water down- 
stairs, but that was not contraband, it was not 
mingled with acid apples and " Edith Somer- 
ville." 

There was a suggestion of delightful riot and 
dissipation in it. It was a sort of school-room 
Bacchanalian orgie, and it added to the advent- 
ures of Edith Somerville just the touch of 
license needed. The Small Person's enjoyment 
was a luxurious thing. To fill one's mouth with 
green apple and wash it clown furtively from the 
jug under the form was bordering on perilous 
adventure. She was verv fond of bordering: on 

^ o 

adventure. When apples were no longer green 
somebody brought raw turnips. Perhaps it was 



' ' Edith Somerville ' 227 

Kate again. She was a child with resources. 
Some of the girls seemed to like them. The 
Small Person did not, but she liked the sense of 
luxury and peril they represented. She was so 
pleased with the flavor of the situation that she 
bore up against the. flavor of the raw turnips. 
She never told her fellow-banqueters that she 
did not enjoy them, that she found them tough 
and queer, and that it needed a great deal of 
water to wash them down. She took large bites 
and obstinately refused to admit to herself that 
they were on the whole rather nasty. To admit 
this would have been to have lost an atmosphere 
-an illusion. And she was very fond of her 
illusions. She loved them. She went on tell- 
ing the stones and the listeners hung on her 
words and nourished themselves with deadly in- 
digestibles. And nobody died either of " Edith 
Somerville " or the raw turnips. . 



CHAPTER XIII. 

CJiristoplicr Columbus 

SHE told many stories " Continued in our Next," 
through many weeks, to the Listeners, whose 
property she seemed to become. They had 
their established places near her. Kate's was the 
nearest, and, in fact, she was chief proprietress 
of the entertainment. She had been, as it were, 
the cause of Edith Somerville, who but for her 
\voulcl never have existed. My impression is that 
she arranged where the Listeners should sit, and 
that her influence was employed by outsiders who 
wanted to gain admission. She was an impetu- 
ous child, and did not like to lose time. If by 
some chance a Listener dropped out of the ranks 
for an afternoon, and, returning, asked anxiously : 

" What did you tell yesterday ? I didn't hear 
that part, you know ; ' Kate would turn and 
give a hasty and somewhat impatient resume of 
the chief events related. 

" Oh, Malcolm came," she would say, " and 
Violet had a white dress with bluebells at her 
belt, and he was jealous of Godfrey, and he got 
in a temper at Violet, and they quarrelled, and he 



Christopher Columbus 229 

went away forever, and she went in a boat on the 
lake, and a storm came up, and he hadn't quite 
gone away, and he was wandering round the lake, 
and he plunged in and saved her, and her golden 
hair was all wet and tangled with bluebells, and 
so- turning to the Small Person "and so- 
now go on ! ' 

And then would proceed the recital describing 
the anguish and remorse of the late infuriate Mal- 
colm as he knelt upon the grass by the side of 
the drenched white frock and golden hair and 
bluebells, embracing the small, limp, white hand, 
and imploring the violet eyes to open and gaze 
upon him once more. 

They always did open. Penitent lovers were 
always forgiven, rash ones were reconciled, wick- 
edness was always punished, offended relatives 
always relented - -particularly rich uncles and 
fathers opportune fortunes were left invariably 
at opportune moments. No Listener was ever 
harrowed too long or allowed to rust her crochet 
needles entirely with tears. As the Small Person 
was powerful, so she was merciful. As she was 
lavish with the golden hair, so she was generous 
with the rest. A tendency toward reckless liber- 
ality and soft relenting marked her for its prey 
even at this early hour. I have never been quite 
able to decide whether she was a very weak or 
a very determined creature weak, because she 



230 The One I Knew the Best of All 

could not endure to sec Covent Garden merely 
as the costermongers saw it or determined, be- 
cause she had the courage to persist in ignor- 
ing the flavor of the raw turnip and in bestowing 
on it a flavor of her own. After all, it is possi- 
ble that to do this requires decision and fixed- 
ness of purpose. In life itself, agreeable situa- 
tions are so often flavored by the raw turnip, and 
to close one's eyes steadily to the fact that it is 
not a sun-warmed peach, not infrequently calls 
upon one's steadiness of resource. 

If she had been a sharp, executive, business-like 
sort of child, she might have used her juvenile 
power as a thing with a certain market value. 
She might have dictated terms, made conditions, 
and gained divers school-room advantages. But 
she had no capacities of the sort. She simply 
told the stories and the others listened. If there 
had been a Listener astute enough in a mercantile 
way to originate the plan of privately farming 
her out, it might easily have been managed with- 
out her knowledge. She had been a stupidly un- 
suspecting little person from her infancy, and she 
might always have been relied upon for the 
stories. But there was no Listener with these 
tendencies, that I am aware of. 

There came a time when some windfall gave 
into her possession an exercise-book which was 
almost entirely unused. She wrote her first com- 



Christopher Columbus 231 

plete story in it. It had been her habit previous- 
ly to merely write scenes from stories on the slate 
and in the butcher's books. Sir Marmaduke 
Maxwelton and his companions were never com- 
pleted. But the one in the blank-book came to a 
conclusion. Its title was " Frank Ellsworth, or 
Bachelors' Buttons." There was nothing what- 
ever in it which had any connection with buttons, 
but the hero was a bachelor. He was twenty- 
two, and had raven hair, and, rendered firm by 
the passage of years of vast experience, had de- 
cided that nothing earthly would induce him to 
unite himself in matrimony. The story opened 
with his repeating this to his housekeeper, who 
was the typical adoring family servant. The 
venerable lady naturally smiled and shook her 
head with playful sadness and then the discrim- 
inating reader knew that in the next page would 
loom up the Edith Somerville of the occasion, 
whose large and lustrous azure eyes and vail of 
pale golden ringlets would shake even the resolu- 
tion of his stern manhood, and that, after pages 
of abject weakness, he would fall at her feet in a 
condition which could only be described as driv- 
elling. My impression is that the story contained 
no evidence whatever of intelligence. But it was 
not at intelligence that the Small Person was 
aiming. She was only telling a story. She was 
very simple about it. She added the sub-title, 



232 The One I Knew the Best of All 

" or Bachelors' Buttons," because she was pleased 
to see something in it vaguely figurative, and she 
liked the sound. 

This story she read to Mamma, who said it was 
" a very pretty tale," and seemed somehow a lit- 
tie amused. Perhaps, after all, Mamma was 
clever. She never discouraged or made the 
Small Person feel her efforts silly and preten- 
tious, but her gentle praise gave no undue impor- 
tance to them, and somehow seemed to make 
them quite natural and innocent child develop- 
ments. They were not things to be vain about, 
only things to enjoy in one's own very young way. 

The Small Person obtained other blank-books 
and began other stories, but none were ever fin- 
ished. It always happened that a new one in- 
sisted on being begun and pushed the first aside. 
A very long one the pride of her heart called 
" Celeste, or Fortune's Wheel," was the guiding 
star of her twelfth year, but it was not concluded, 
and was thrown into the fire with all the rest 
when she left her own land for a new one. 

The unfinished stories rather troubled her. 
When the infant regret that she was not a suita- 
able subject for Sunday-school Memoirs had 
melted into a vague young desire not to have 
many faults, she used to wonder if the fact that 
so many stories were begun and not finished, was 
a sign of an undesirable mental quality. 



Christopher Columbus 233 

"I ought \& finish them," she use to think, re- 
morsefully. " I ought not to begin things I don't 
finish." And she reproached herself quite se- 
verely. 

" Shall I go on like this, and never finish one ? ' 
she thought, and she was vaguely distressed by a 
shadowing feeling that it might be her sort to be 
always beginning, and never finishing. 

Inspired by her example, several of the Listen- 
ers began to write stories in old blank-books. 

o 

They were all echoes of Edith Somerville, and 
when they were given to her to read, she sternly 
repressed in herself any occasional criticism 
which arose in her small mind. She was afraid 
that criticism on her part, even though only men- 
tal, was a sign of what was generally spoken of as 
" a bad disposition." She was, in private, ex- 
tremely desirous not to have " a bad disposition." 

" I am conceited," she said to herself. " That 
is the reason I don't think their stories are as nice 
as mine. It is vulgar and ridiculous to be con- 
ceited, besides being bad." 

There was one Listener who described her 
hero, at an interesting juncture, as " holding out 
his tiny lily hand," and something within her was 
vaguely revolted by a sense of the grotesque, but 
she could not have been induced to comment 
upon the circumstance. 

It might, in these days, be interesting to ex- 



234 The One I Knew the Best of All 

amine these manuscripts if they still existed- 
with a view to discovering if they contained any 
germ of a reason why one child should have con- 
tinued to write stories throughout life, while the 
rest did not write again. The romances of the 
Small Person were wildly romantic and pre- 
posterously sentimental, without a doubt. That 
there was always before her mind's eye a distinct 
and strongly colored picture of her events, I re- 
member ; the Listeners laughed and occasionally 
cried, and were always rapt in their attention ; 
but if regarded with the impartial eye of cold 
criticism, my impression is that they might be 
dismissed as arrant nonsense. The story ran riot 
through their pages, unbilled and unbridled. 

But no one ever saw them but herself. Even 
Mamma heard only the reading of " Frank Ells- 
worth." The rest, scribbled in copy-books and 
blank-books, accumulated in darkness and pri- 
vacy, until the first great event of her life oc- 
curred. 

It was a very great event, and, I am convinced, 
changed the whole color of existence for her. It 
was no less a matter than leaving England, to 
begin a new life in America. 

The events which preceded, and were the final 
reasons for it, were not pleasant ones. She was 
too young to be told all the details of them. But 
the beginning of it all was a sort of huge Story, 



Christopher Columbus 235 

which seized upon her imagination. It seemed 
to her that, for years and years, everyone seemed 
to live, more or less, under the shadow of a cloud 
spoken of as "the War in America." This was 
probably felt more in the cotton manufacturing 
centres than anywhere else. Lancashire was the 
great county of cotton factories. Manchester 
was the very High Altar of the God Cotton. 
There were rich men in Manchester who were 
known everywhere as Cotton Lords. The smoke 

rolling from the tall Babel Towers which were 
<_> 

the chimneys of their factories, made the sky 
dingy for scores of miles around, the back streets 
were inhabited by the men and women who 
worked at their looms, the swarms of smoke-be- 
grimed children who played everywhere, began 
to work in the factories as early as the law al- 
lowed. All the human framework of the great 
dirty city was built about the cotton trade. All 
the working classes depended upon it for bread, 
all the middle classes for employment, all the 
rich for luxury. The very poor, being wakened 
at four in the morning by the factory bells, 
flocked to the buildings over which the huge 
chimneys towered and rolled their volume of 
black smoke ; the respectable fathers of families 
spent their days in the counting-rooms or differ- 
ent departments of the big warehouses ; the men 
of wealth lived their lives among cotton, buying 



236 The One I Knew the Best of All 

and selling, speculating and gaining or losing in 
Cotton, Cotton, Cotton. 

" If the war in America does not end," it began 
to be said at one time, " there will be no more 
cotton, and the manufacturers will not know what 
to do." 

But this was at first, when everyone believed 
that the difficulty would settle itself in a few 
months, and the North and South would be united 
again. No one was pessimist enough to believe 
that such a terrible thing would happen as that 
the fighting would continue. 

But after a while other things were said. 

" There is beginning to be a scarcity of cotton. 
People even say that some of the factories may 
have to stop work." 

Every closed factory meant hunger to scores of 
operatives- -even hundreds. But still the war 
went on in America. 

" Jackson's factory has stopped work because 
there is no cotton ! " came a little later. 

Then : 

" Bright's has stopped work ! All the opera- 
tives thrown out of employment. Jones is going 
to stop, and Perkins can only keep on about two 
weeks longer. They are among the biggest, and 
there will be hundreds on the street. Brownson's 
ruined. Had no cotton to fill his engagements. 
All these enormously rich fellows will feel it aw- 



Christopher Columbus 237 

fully, but the ones who are only in moderate cir- 
cumstances will go to smash ! ' 

It was oftenest the Boys who brought these re- 
ports. And still the war went on in America, and 
the Small Person heard rumors of battles, of vic- 
tories and losses, of killed and wounded, of the 
besieging of cities with strange-sounding names, 
of the South overwhelmed by armies, of planta- 
tions pillaged, magnolia-embowered houses ran- 
sacked and burned. At least when she heard of 
Southern houses being destroyed, she herself at 
once supplied the magnolias. To her the South 
was the land of " Uncle Tom's Cabin." A planta- 
tion meant a boundless estate, swarming with 
negroes like Uncle Tom, Aunt Chloe, Eliza, and 
the rest of them, and governed either by a Legree 
or a Saint Claire, who lived on a veranda covered 
with luxuriant vines and shaded by magnolia- 
groves, where Eva flitted about in a white frock 
and long, golden-brown ringlets. 

She did not in the least know what the war was 
about, but she could not help sympathizing with 
the South because magnolias grew there, and peo- 
ple dressed in white sat on verandas covered with 
vines. Also, there were so many roses. How 
could one help loving a place where there were 
so many roses? When she realized that the 
freedom from slavery of the Uncle Toms and 
Aunt Chloes and Elizas was involved, she felt 



238 77ie One I Knew the Best of All 

the situation a strained one. It was impossible 
not to wish the poor slaves to be freed the story 
itself demanded it. One wept all through " Uncle 
Tom's Cabin " because they had not their "free- 
dom," and were sold away from their wives and 
children, and beaten and hunted with blood- 
hounds ; but the swarms of them singing and 
speaking negro dialect in the plantations were 
such a picturesque and lovable feature of the 
Story ; and it was so unbearable to think of the 
plantations being destroyed, the vine-covered ve- 
randas disappearing, and the magnolias bloom- 
ing no more to shade the beautiful planters in 
Panama hats and snow-white linen. She was so 
attached to planters, and believed them all ex- 
cept the Legrees to be graceful and picturesque 
creatures. 

But it seemed that the war prevented their 
sitting on their verandas sipping iced juleps 
through straws, while their plantations brought 
forth cotton. 

Factory after factory closed, thousands of oper- 
atives were out of work, there was a Cotton Fam- 
ine. The rich people were being ruined, the poor 
were starving, there was no trade. The ware- 
houses began to feel it, the large shops and the 
small ones, more or less directly ; all Manchester 
prosperity depended upon Cotton, and as there 
was no Cotton there was no money. 



Christopher Columbus 



239 



" If the war in America were only over," every- 
body said. 

The stones of the starving operatives became 
as terrible as the stories from America. Side by 
side with accounts of battles there were, in the 
newspapers, accounts of the " Lancashire Dis- 
tress," as it was called. Funds were 
raised by kind-hearted people in 
all sorts of places to give aid to 
the suffering creatures. There 
were Soup Kitchens estab- 
lished, and pitiful tales were 
told of the hundreds of hol- 
low-eyed, ravenous men 
arid women and chil- 
dren w h o crowded 
about their doors. 

" If t' war i' 'Merica 
ud coom to an eend," 
they said among themselves, 
" we shouldna aw be clemmin." And 
it was not only the operatives who suffered, 
all classes were involved as the months went on. 

Little girls and boys began to say to each 
other : 

" We can't go to Wales this summer. Papa 
says he can't afford it. There are so many of us 
and it takes such a lot of money. It's the war in 
America that makes him feel poor." 




240 The One I Kne'tO the Best of All 

Or, 

" The Blakes are not going to have a Christmas 
party. Mr. Blake has lost money through the 
war in America." 

Or more awe-inspiring still : 

" Do you know, Mr. Hey wood is a bankrupt. 
The war in America has ruined his business, and 
he has to close his warehouse." 

Even Mamma began to look harassed and anx- 
ious. She had neither a factory nor a warehouse, 
but she also had her difficulties and losses. Poor 
gentle and guileless little lady, she was all unfit to 
contend with a harsh, sharp, sordid world. She 
had tried to be business-like and practical, because, 
poor Papa being gone, there were the three little 
girls to be taken care of and the boys to be given 
a career in life. Sometimes the Small Person 
found her at her dressing-table taking off her lit- 
tle black bonnet with gentle trembling hands and 
with tears in the blue eyes " Poor Papa ' had 
thought like Amy Robsart's and Jeanie Deans's. 

" Is there anything the matter, Mamma?" she 
would ask. 

" Yes, dear," Mamma would answer tremblingly. 
" I have a great deal to be anxious about. I am 
afraid I am not a very good business woman, and 
so many things go wrong. If I only had poor 
Papa to advise me- - ; " and the soft, deprecat- 
ing voice would break. 



CJiri stop her Columbus 241 

"Don't, don't be low-spirited, Mamma," the 
Small Person would say, with a tremor in her 
own voice. " It will all come right after a 
while." 

" Oh, my dear," Mamma would exclaim, at once 
tried and worn out, " nothing will ever come right 
until this dreadful war is over in America." 

If this were a record of incidents, many might 
be recorded of this time. But it is only a record 
of the principal events which influenced the men- 
tal life of a Small Person. 

There came at last a time when the war was 
ended, and there was a pathetic story of the first 
bales of cotton being met by a crowd of hunger- 
and trouble-worn factory operatives with sobs and 
tears, and cries of rapturous welcome and of one 
man perhaps a father who had sat by a fireless 
hearth, broken of spirit and helpless, while his 
young swarm cried for bread a poor gaunt fel- 
low who, lifting his hat, with tears running down 
his cheeks, raised his voice in the Doxology, one 
after another joining in, until the whole mass sang, 
in one great swelling chorus : 

" Praise God, from whom all blessings flow ; 
Praise Him, all creatures here below ; 
Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host ; 
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." 

The Small Person heard this story with a large 
16 



242 The One I Knew the Best of All 

lump in her throat. She felt that it meant so 
much, and that there must have been strange, sor- 
rowful things going on in the cottages in the Back 
Streets. 

It was after she had heard it that the great 



/ /'t -vurn / .'j. ,t Jr.'',' ^> v 

,> :l OLfffJI r^n ..*,* 6. ? * ,1T Ji" r. 




event occurred. She entered a room one morn- 
ing to find Mamma and the two boys evidently 
discussing with unusual excitement a letter with 
a foreign post-mark. 

" It seems so sudden ! " said Mamma, in rather 
an agitated voice. 



Christopher Columbus 243 

" It would be a great lark," said one of the boys. 
" I should like it ! r 

" I don't think I could ever make up my mind 
to leave England ! ' fluttered Mamma. " It 
seems such a long way ! ' 

The Small Person looked from one to the 
other. 

" What is a long way ? ' she asked. " What 
are you talking about, Mamma ? ' 

Mamma looked at her, and her gentle face 
wore an almost frightened-like expression. 

" America ! " she said, " America ! ' 

" America ! ' exclaimed the Small Person, with 
wide-opened eyes. " What about America ? ' 

" We're going there," cried her younger 
brother, who was given to teasing her. " The 
whole job lot of us ! I say, isn't it a lark ! ' 

" My dear, don't talk so thoughtlessly ! ' said 
Mamma. " I have had a letter from your Uncle 
John, in America. He thinks it would be a good 
thing for us to go there. He believes he could 
find openings for the boys." 

" Oh ! ' gasped the Small Person, " America ! 
Do you do you think you will go ? Oh, 
Mamma," with sudden rapture " do do ! ' 

It seems so incredibly delightful ! To go to 
America ! The land of " Uncle Tom's Cabin ! ' 
Perhaps to see plantations and magnolias ! To 
be attended by Aunt Chloes and Topsys ! To 



244 The One I Knew the Best of All 

make a long voyage to cross a real Atlantic 
Ocean in a ship which was not the Green Arm- 
Chair ! 

The real events of her life had been so simple 
and its boundaries had been so limited. From 
the Back Garden of Eden to the Square, and 
from the Square to the nearest mild sea-side 
town, which seemed to be made up of a Pier, 
bathing-machines, lodgings, and shrimps for tea, 
these were her wildest wanderings. The inhabi- 
tants of the Square were not given to travel. 
The Best Friend had spent a summer in Scot- 
land, and the result of searching cross-examina- 
tion as to her sojourn in this foreign land had 
seemed to give the whole flavor of Sir Walter 
Scott. She had sat by a " loch/' and she had 
heard people speak Gaelic, which she had found 
an obstacle to fluent interchange of opinion. 
The Small Person had once seen a very little 
girl who was said to have come from America. 
She had longed to talk to her and find out what 

o 

it was like to live in America what America 
was like, what it was like to cross the Atlantic 
Ocean. Her craving was to find out all about 
America to have it summed up as it were with 
definite clearness. But the very little girl was 
only five years old, and she was not an intelli- 
gent little girl, and did not seem to regard herself 
as a foreign product, or to know that America 



Christopher Columbus 



245 



was foreign and so intensely interesting 1 . But 
the Small Person looked upon her with defer- 
ence and yearning, and watched her from afar, 
being rather surprised that she did not seem to 
know how almost weirdly fascinating she was. 

And now to think that there was a possibility 
-even a remote 
one - - that she 
might go to 
America her- 
self ! 

" Oh, Mamma, 
please do, please 
do / ' she said 
again and again, 
in the days that 
followed. 

The Boys re- 
garded the pros- 
pect with rapt- 
ure. To them 
it meant wild 
adventure of ev- 
ery description. They were so exhilarated that 
they could talk of nothing else, and began to 
bear about them a slight suggestion of being of 
the world of the heroes of Captain Mayne Reid 
and Fenimore Cooper. They frequently referred 
to the "Deerslayer" and the " Last of the Mohi- 




"A . 



'lh 



246 The One I Knew the Best of All 

cans," and brought in interesting details gath- 
ered from " a fellow I know, who comes from 
New York." Certain descriptions of a magnifi- 
cent thoroughfare known as Broadway impressed 
the Small Person immensely. She thought that 
Broadway was at least half a mile wide, and 
that before the buildings adorning it Bucking- 
ham Palace and Windsor Castle must sink into 
utter insignificance particularly a place called 
A. T. Stewart's. These opinions were founded 
upon the statements of the "fellow who came 
from New York." 

It really was a delightfully exciting time. 
The half-awed rapture of hearing the possible 
prospect talked over by Mamma and the Uncles 
and Aunts, the revelation one felt one was mak- 
ing in saying to an ordinary boy or girl, " Do 
you know that perhaps we are going to Amer- 
ica ! ' There was thrill enough for a lifetime 

j_ 
in it. 

And when at last Mamma " and the Aunts 
and Uncles and all the relations and friends ' 
had decided the matter, and everybody went to 
bed knowing that they were going to America, 
and that everything was to be sold and that the 
Atlantic was to be crossed, a new world seemed 
to be looming up, and the Small Person in the 
midst of her excitement had some rather queer 
little feelings and lay awake staring in the dark- 



Christopher Columbus 247 

ness and wondered who would get the Green 
Arm-Chair and the Nursery Sofa. 

And then came greater excitement still. 
There seemed such thousands of things to be 
done and such a sense of intoxicating novelty in 
the air. Everybody was so affectionate and 
kind, and staying with a family of cousins 
while the house was disposed of seemed the 
most delightful rollicking thing. Two families 
in one house filled it to overflowing and pro- 
duced the most hilarious results. There was 
laughing nearly all night, and darting in and out 
on errands and visits all day, there was a buy- 
ing of things, and disposing of things, the see- 
ing friends, the bidding good-by, and somehow 
through it all that delicious sense of adventure 
and expectation and wild, young, good spirits 
and fun. 

And this all reached a climax in an excited, 
entrancing journey to Liverpool, with two rail- 
road carriages full of cousins, with an aunt or so 
in attendance. Then there was a night in Liver- 
pool, in which it was almost impossible to sleep 
at all because there was so much to be talked 
over in bed, and the next morning was so thrill- 
ingly near and at the same time so unbearably 
far away. 

And when it came at last there came with it 
the sending away to the ship of cases and trunks, 



248 The One I Knew the Best of All 



the bundling into cabs of all the cousins, with 
final packages of oranges and lemons and all sorts 
of remedies and resources, the tremulously de- 
lightful crowding on the wharf, the sight of the 
great ship, the nervous ecstasy of swarming upon 
it, exploring, exclaiming, discovering, glancing 

over the groups of fellow- 
passengers and sin- 
gling out those who 
looked interesting. 
And then, while 
the excitement 
was at the high- 
est, there came 
the ringing of 
the fateful bell, 
and the Small 
Person felt her 
heart give a 
curious wild 
thump and 
strange elec- 
tric thrills run 
down into her 
fingers. 

Suddenly 
she felt as if too 
much was hap- 
pening all at 




Christopher Columbus 249 

once as if things were woful. She wanted to go 
to America yes, but everybody seemed to have 
his eyes filled with tears, people were clinging to 
each other's hands, shaking hands fiercely, clasped 
in each other's arms, the people in the groups 
about her were all agitated, Mamma was being 
embraced by the aunts, with tears, the cousins 
made farewell clutches, their eyes suddenly full 
of tears. 

" Good-by, good-by ! ' everyone was saying. 
" Good-by. I hope you'll be happy ! Oh ! it's so 
strange to see you go ! We shall so miss you ! ' 
The Small Person kissed and was kissed with 
desperate farewell fervor. People had not then 
begun to make summer voyages from America to 
England every year. Going to America was 
going to another world a world which seemed 
divided from quiet simple English homes almost 
by the gulf of Eternity. 

" Oh ! Good-by, good-by," she cried, quite pas- 
sionately. " I wish you were all going with 
us ! " 

A friend of an older cousin was of the par- 
ty. He was a nice fellow she had known from 
childhood. Because he was nice enough to be 
trusted, she had given him her little dog, not 
knowing she might have taken it with her. 

He was the last to shake hands with her. 
He looked rather nervous and deeply moved. 



250 The One I Knew the Best of All 



" Good-by," he said. " I hope you 
will like America." 

" Good-by," she said, looking at 
him through tears. " You- -I know 
you'll be good to Flora." 

" Yes," he answered, " I'll be good 
to Flora." 

And after looking at her a second 
he seemed to decide that she was 
still sufficiently a little girl to be 
kissed, and he kissed her wet cheek 

affectionately and 
walked away with an 
evident effort to 
maintain a decided 
air. And when the 
ship began to move 
slowly away he stood 
with the aunts and 
cousins on the wharf, 
and they all waved 
their handkerchiefs, 
and the Small Per- 
son leaned upon the 

deck-rail, with tears running down her cheeks, 
and said to herself, under her breath, 

"Oh, dear! oh, dear! Noiv I'm going to 
America." 





CHAPTER XIV. 

The Dryad Days 

THERE were many of them so beautiful- -so 
newly, strangely beautiful that words seem poor 
things to try and describe them with. Words are 
always poor things. One only uses them because 
one has nothing else. There is a wide, wide dis- 
tance a distance which is more than a matter of 
mere space between a great murky, slaving, 
manufacturing town in England, and mountains 
and forests in Tennessee forests which seem end- 
lessly deep, mountains covered with their depths 
of greenness, their pines and laurels, swaying and 
.blooming, vines of wild grape and scarlet trumpet- 
'flower swaying and blooming among them, tangled 
with the branches of sumach and sassafras, and all 
things with branches held out to be climbed over 
and clung to and draped. 

To have lived under the shadow of the factory 
chimneys, to have looked up at the great, soft, 
white clouds and fleecy, floating islands, always 
seeing them somewhat tarnished, as it were, with 
the yellowness of the chimney -smoke, to have 



252 The One I Knew the Best of All 

picked one's daisies and buttercups in the public 
park, always slightly soiled with the tiny dots of 
black the soft drift of " smuts ' which never 
ceased falling all this is an excellent preparation 
for rapture, when one is brought face to face with 
Dryad haunts, and may live Dryad days. 

After the passing of the years in the Back Gar- 
den of Eden the Small Person had always been 
so accustomed to the ever-falling little rain of 
"smuts " that it had become an accepted feature 
of existence. They fell upon one's features, and 
one of the gentle offices of courtesy was to remove 
them from beloved and intimate cheeks or noses, 
and delicately direct the attention of mere ac- 
quaintances to their presence and exact situation. 
They made spots upon one's hat-ribbons, and dis- 
figured one's best frock, and it occurred to no one 
to touch anything or rest against it without pre- 
vious examination. In fact, one was so accustomed 
to their presence that the thought of resenting it 
rarely intruded itself, and one scarcely realized 
that there existed people who were not so rained 
upon. The Small Person had always felt it sad, 
however, that the snow even the pure, untrodden, 
early morning snow- -was spoiled so soon by the 
finer snow of black which fell upon its fair surface 
and speckled it. One of the most exciting nursery 
experiments in winter had been to put a cupful of 
milk, sweetened with nursery brown sugar, onto the 



The Dryad Days 253 

window-sill outside, with the thrilling expectation 
that it would freeze and become ice-cream. This 
was always tried when it snowed and one could 
get the milk and sugar ; but as Manchester weather 
was rarely very cold, the mixture never froze, and 
if it had done so, it would never have become ice- 
cream, or anything more nearly resembling it than 
pale-blue skimmed milk and brown sugar would 
make. There had been rare occasions when a thin 
coating of ice had formed upon the top of the 
preparation, and been devoured with joy- -but it 
usually remained in a painfully sloppy condition, 
and was covered with a powder of fine soot. And 
when in despair one took it in and disposed of it 
with a spoon, with an effort to regard it as a lux- 
ury, because if it had frozen it would have been 
ice-cream the flavor of smoke in it was always 
its strongest feature. This was an actual trial to 
the Small Person, because it interfered with the 
pretence that it was ice-cream. It really was so 
horribly smoky. Everything had been more or 
less smoky all through her childhood. And she 
had an absolute passion for the country. She 
adored the stories in which people had parks or 
gardens, or lived in rustic cottages, or walked in 
forests, or across moors, or climbed " blue hills." 
She revelled in the thoughts of bluebells and 
honeysuckles, and harebells and wild roses. She 
" pretended ' them in the Square itself. And 



254 The One I Knew the Best of All 

this, by the way, recalls a thrilling incident which 
is perhaps sufficiently illustrative to be worth 
recording. 

One or two of the large vacant houses perhaps 
all of them had once had large gardens behind 
them. Years of neglect and factory chimney 
smoke had transformed them into cindery des- 
erts, where weeds grew rank in patches where 
anything could grow at all, and where, despite 
the high brick walls surrounding them, all sorts 
of rubbish accumulated, and made both weeds 
and bareness more hideous, and their desolate- 
ness more complete. Usually the doors of en- 
trance were kept locked, and there was no oppor- 
tunity of even looking in from the outside. This 
fact the Small Person had always found enchant- 
ing, because it suggested mystery. So long as 
one could not cross the threshold, one could 
imagine all sorts of beautifulness hidden by the 
walls too high to be looked over, the little green 
door which was never unclosed. It made her 
wish so that she could get inside. 

For years she never did so, but at last there 
came a rumor that the big houses were to be 
pulled down, to make room for smaller ones, and 
then it was whispered about among the Square 
children that the little green door in the high 
wall which surrounded the garden behind the 
big house, called for some mysterious reason 



The Dryad Days 255 

" Page's Hall," had been opened, and some bold 
spirit had walked in and even walked out again. 

And so there arrived an eventful hour when the 
Small Person herself went in passed through the 
enchanted door and stood within the mysterious 
precincts looking around her. 

If she had seen it as it really was she would 
probably have turned and fled. But she did not 

-she saw nothing as it was Grace au Bon Dieu ! 
She saw a Garden. At least it had been a Gar- 
den once and there were the high brick walls 
around it - - and the little door so long unop- 
ened, and once there had been flowers and trees 
in it; they had really bloomed and been green 
and shady there, though it was so long ago. The 
charming treasure of her life had been the story 
that once the Square itself had been an orna- 
mental lake with swans and lilies in it. 

So she wandered about in a dream " pretend- 
ing." That changed it all. The heaps of earth 
and rubbish were mounds of flowers, the rough, 
coarse docks were lilies with broad leaves, every 
poor green thing struggling for life in the hard 
earth had a lovely name. They were green things 
at least, and she loved them for that. They grew 

-just as real flowers might have done in a place 
which had once been a Garden. 

All her little life she had felt a sort of curious 
kinship with things which grew- -the trodden 



256 The One I Knew the Best of All 

grass in the public park, the soiled daisies and 
buttercups. She had lived among her bricks and 
mortar and smoke with the yearnings of a little 
Dryad underlying all her pleasures. In the 
Square real trees and flowers and thick green 
ferns and grass seemed joys so impossible. 

She walked about slowly. " Pretending' with 
all her power. She bent down and looked the 
weeds in their faces and touched them tenderly. 
They were such poor things, but in some places 
they grew quite thickly together and covered the 
ugly barrenness of the earth with a coarse, simple 
greenery which represented vaguely to her mind 
something which was quite beautiful. She felt 
grateful to them. 

" Suppose they were roses and pansies and lilies 
and violets," she said to herself. " How beautiful 
it would be ! " 

And then her dear Angel the beloved Story- 
laid its kind, beautiful hand upon her, and as she 
stood among the docks and thistles, if an older 
person could have looked on - - understanding- 
surely he would have seen light and color and 
glow come into her child face. 

" You are roses ! " she said. " You arc violets- 
and lilies and hyacinths and daffodils and snow- 
drops ! You arc ! ' 

She had reached a mound and was standing on 
it. Beside it, and between herself and the garden 



The Dryad Days 257 

wall, there was a sort of broad, deep ditch which 
seemed to have no reason for existence and of- 
fered no explanation of itself. The mound had 
probably been formed by the piling up of the 
earth and rubbish dug out and thrown up. The 
green things grew over the mound and were rank 
even in the ditch itself, scrambling down its ugly 
sides and half filling it. She looked into this ditch 
and was pleased with it. 

" This is the castle Moat," she said. " It is a 
Moat and these are the castle gardens." 

The Moat enraptured her. It made all things 
possible. She rambled about building around it. 

" There is a Bower here," she said, in the very 
low voice she reserved for such occasions. " It is a 
Bower covered with roses. There are a great 
many trees great big trees with thick trunks and 
broad, broad branches. There are oaks and 
beeches and chestnut-trees and they spread their 
boughs across the avenues from side to side. 

o 

There are Avenues. They are arched over with 
green. There are banks and banks of flow- 
ers banks of primroses and banks of violets." 
She was always lavish. " There are bluebells- 
and thick green grass and emerald velvet moss, 
and ferns and ferns. There are fountains and Grot- 
toes and everything is carpeted with flowers." 

It was all as abundant as Edith Somerville's 
hair. 

17 



258 The One I Knciv the Best of All 

And the Garden the long dead Garden the 
poor old, forgotten, deserted Garden ! Did it 
know that suddenly it had bloomed again as 
it had never bloomed before, even half a century 
ago in its palmiest days ? 

It would be beautiful to believe that it did, and 
that some strange, lovely struggle and thrill so 
moved it, that Nature herself helped it to one 
last effort to live expressing itself in a myste- 
rious and wonderful thing. If this was not so, 
how did a flower grow there ? 

It seemed wonderful to the Small Person- 
though it was such a tiny thing such a common 
thing in some places that there are country-bred 
people who would not have stooped to pick it 
up. But she had never seen one. 

She was bending over the green things on the 
mound and telling them again that they were 
flowers when she saw a tiny red speck close 
to the ground. 

It was scarcely more than a speck and a flow- 
er was such a wildly improbable thing that she 
could not believe her eyes. 

" It's a flower ! ' she gasped. " A tiny red 
thing!' and she knelt among the weeds and 
gloated on it. " It's a real flower ! " she said, 



" gr oiving ! 



She did not know what it was. She took it up 
as if it had been a holy thing. Only a little 



The Dryad Days 



2 59 




Dryad, who had spent her life in the Square 
looking out at the slates for rain, could have felt 
as she did. She looked at it closer and closer, 
and then remembered something she had read in 
some poem of rural scenes, the name of some 



260 The One I Knew the Best of All 

little thing- which was tiny and red, and grew low 
and close to the earth. It did not really matter 
whether she was quite right or not she could not 
know but she loved the name and hoped it was 
the real one. 

" It is a Pimpernel," she said, " a scarlet Pim- 
pernel. It must be!' And she ended with a 
wild little shout to the other children who were 
exploring within hail. 

"Come here!' she cried. "Come here, and 
see what I have found. I have found a Pimpernel 
-a scarlet Pimpernel like those that grow in the 
fields!" 

* 

And from a life where a growing green thing 
was a marvel and a mystery, and a pimpernel 
an incongruous impossibility, she went into the 
Dryad da3 r s. They began with a journey of two 
weeks after land was reached, with the banks 
of the St. Lawrence, with days of travel through 
Canadian forests, with speechless, rapt wanderings 
on the borders of a lake like a sea, with short 
rests at cities which seemed new and foreign, 

o 

though they were populated with people who 
spoke English, and which ended at last in a 
curious little village one unpaved street of wood- 
en houses, some painted white and some made of 
logs, but with trees everywhere, and forests and 
hills shutting it in from the world. 



The Dryad Days 261 

Then she lived in the Story. Quiet English 
people, who, driven by changes of fortune, wan- 
dered thousands of miles and lived without ser- 
vants in a log cabin, were a Story themselves. 
The part of the house which was built of logs 
enchanted her. It was quite like Fenimore 
Cooper, . but that there were no Indians. She 
yearned inexpressibly for the Indians. There 
must have been Indians some time, and there 
must be some left in the forests. This was what 
she hoped and tried to find out about. It is pos- 
sible her inquiries into the subject sometimes 
rather mystified the owners of the white wooden 
houses, to whom Indians seemed less thrilling. 
Occasionally an Indian or two were seen she 
found, but they were neither blood-thirsty nor 
majestic. They did not build wigwams in the 
forests, or wear moccasons and wampum ; they 
did not say " The words of the Pale Face make 
warm the heart of the White Eagle." 

" They gener'ly come a beggin' somepn good 
to eat," one of the white house-owners said to 
her. " Vittles, or a chaw er terbacker or a dram 
er whiskey is what they re arter. An' he'll lie an 
steal, a Injun will, as long as he's a Injun. I 
hain't no use for a Injun." 

This was not like Fenimore Cooper, but she 
persuaded herself that the people she questioned 
had not chanced to meet the right kind of Abo- 



262 The One I Knew the Best of All 

rigine. She preferred Fenimore Cooper's, even 
when he wore his war-paint and was scalping the 
Pale Face or rather pursuing him with that 
intent without attaining his object. She de- 
lighted in conversation with the natives the 

O 

real native, who had a wonderful dialect. As she 
had learned to speak Lancashire she learned to 
speak East Tennessean and North Carolinian 
and the negro dialect. Finding that her English 
accent was considered queer she endeavored to 
correct it and to speak American. She found 
American interesting and rather liked it. That 

<j 

was part of the Story, too. To use, herself, in 
casual conversation, the expressions she had 
heard in American stories related with delight in 
England was a joy. She used to wonder what 
the aunts and cousins and the people in the 
Square would think if they heard her say " I 
guess," and " I reckon," if they would be shocked 
or if they would think it amusing. 

The Square the wet, shiny slates the soiled 
clouds and falling soot seemed more than thou- 
sands of miles away it was as if they could 
scarcely have been real, as if she must have 
dreamed them. Because she was really a Dryad 
she felt no strangeness in the great change in 
her life. It seemed as if she must always have 
lived with the vast clear space of blue above 
her, with hundreds of miles of forests surround- 



The Dryad Days 263 

ing her, with hills on every side, with that view 
of a certain far-off purple mountain behind 
which the sun set after it had painted such splen- 
dors in the sky. To get up at sunrise and go 
out into the exquisite freshness and scent of earth 
and leaves, to wander through the green aisles 
of tall, broad-leaved, dew-wet Indian corn, whose 
field sloped upward behind the house to the 
chestnut-tree which stood just outside the rail 
fence one climbed over on to the side of the hill, 
to climb the hill and wander into the woods 
where one gathered things, and sniffed the air 
like some little wild animal, to inhale the odor 
of warm pines and cedars and fresh damp mould, 
and pungent aromatic things in the tall " Sage 
grass," to stand breathing it all in, one's whole 
being enveloped in the perfume and warm fresh 
fragrance of it, one's face uplifted to the deep, 
pure blue and the tops of the pines swaying a 
little before it to hear little sounds breaking the 
stillness when one felt it most lovely little 
sounds of birds conversing with each other, 
asking questions and answering them and some- 
times being sweetly petulant, of sudden brief 
little chatters of squirrels, of lovely languorous 
cawing of crows high above the tree tops, of the 
warm-sounding boom and drone of a bee near 
the ground strange as it may seem, to do, to 
feel, to see and hear all this was somehow not 



264 The One I Knew the Hest of All 

new to her. She was not a stranger here she 
had been a stranger in the Square when she had 
lifted her face to the low-hanging, smoky clouds, 
talking to them, imploring them when they would 
make no response. Without knowing why be- 
cause she was too young to comprehend she 
felt that she had begun to be alive, and that be- 
fore, somehow, she had not been exactly living. 
Though the poor green things in a smoke and 
soot-smitten Sahara had moved her and seemed 
to say something vaguely, though one pimpernel 
astray through some miracle among the rubbish 
had made her heart cry aloud, the full bounty of 
all Nature poured out before her in one magnifi- 
cent gift seemed to be something she had always 
known something she must have been waiting 
for all through her young years of exile a na- 
tive land which she could not have been kept 
away from always. And the most perfectly raptur- 
ous of her moments always brought to her a feel- 
ing that somehow in some subtle way she was 
part of it part of the trees, of the warm winds 
and scents and sounds and grasses. This though 
she had not reached the point of knowing it was 
because ages before dim, far-off beautiful ages 
before, she had been a little Faun or Dryad or 
perhaps a swaying thing of boughs and leaves 
herself, but this had been when there had been 
fair pagan gods and goddesses who found the 



The Dryad Days 265 

fair earth beautiful enough for deity itself. And 
some strange force had reincarnated her in the 
Square. 

It is worth mention, perhaps, that here she 
ceased to " pretend " in the old way. There was 
no need to " pretend." There were real things 
enough. She had laid the Doll aside reluctantly 
some time before doing it gradually after some 
effort at being purely maternal with it, which, 
after some tentative experiment, was a failure, 
because she so loved the real, warm babies that 
to hover over a wax one seemed an insult to her 
being. She lived in the woods, and she wrote 
stories on slates and pieces of paper. But the 
Story took a new tone. Sir Marmaduke Max- 
welton was less prominent, and the hair of Edith 
Somerville flowed less freely over the pages. 
Hair and eyes seemed less satisfying and less nec- 
essary. She began to deal with emotions. She 
found emotions interesting and forests and 
Autumn leaves assisted them and seemed part of 
them somehow, as she was part of the forests 
themselves. In the Square she had imagined- 
in the forests she began to feel. 

She lived in the village long enough to gain a 
great deal of atmosphere, and then she went with 
the family to another place. The new home was 
not very far away from the first one, and though 
it was within a few miles of a place large enough 



266 The One I Knew tJic Best of All 

to be called a town, instead of a village, it was 
even more sylvan. This time the house was a 
little white one and she did not deplore its not 
being built of logs, because she had lived beyond 
the Fenimore Cooper standpoint and expected 
neither Indians nor bears. She no longer regarded 
America as foreign, and had attained a point of 
view quite different from that of her early years. 

The house was not at the foot of a hill, in these 
days it was at the top of one. It was not a very 
high hill, and the house was a tiny one, balanced 
quaintly on the summit, as if some flood had left 
it there on receding. 

" Noah's Ark was left like it on Mount Ararat," 
said the Small Person. " Let us call it Noah's 
Ark, Mount Ararat. Think how queer it will 
look on letters." So it was called Noah's Ark, 
Mount Ararat, and the address did look queer on 
letters. 

The house was a bandbox, but the place was 
adorable in these days. One stood on the little 
porch of Noah's Ark and looked out over under- 
growth and woods and slopes and hills which 
ended in three ranges of mountains one behind 
the other. The farthest was the Alleghanies. It 
was at this place that what were most truly the 
Dryad days were lived. There were no neigh- 
bors but the woods, there was no village, the 
town was too far away to be visited often bv peo- 



The Dryad Days 267 

pie who must walk. There was nothing to dis- 
tract one. 

And the mountains always seemed to stand 
silently on guard. They became part of one's 
life. When the Small Person came out upon the 
porch very early in the morning they were deep 
purple and stood out soft and clear. The sun 
was rising from behind a hill to the left, where 
three or four very tall pine-trees seemed to have 
grown with a view to adding to the spectacular 
effect by outlining their feathery branches and 
straight, slender stems against the pink, pearl, 
amber, blue, apple-green, daffodil sky, growing 
intenser every moment until the golden flood 
leaped up above the tallest feathered pine. In 
the middle of the day they paled into faint blue 
in a haze of sunny light and heat, at sunset they 
were violet with touches of deep rose. The 
Small Person began to think of them as of hu- 
man things. They were great human things, 
with moods which changed and expressions 
which came and w T ent. She found herself going 
to look at them at all sorts of times, at different 
phases of the day or sky, to see how they looked 
now ! They had so many expressions they al- 
ways seemed to be saying something no, think- 
ing something but she did not know what. She 
would have been glad to understand but with 
these too she had that instinct of kindship of 



268 The One I Knew the Best of All 

somehow being part of their purple, their clear 
dark outline, their dips and curves against the 
sky with these too ! The first morning that she 
went out and found them covered with snow- 
like ranges of piled white clouds lightly touched 
with sunrise pink she almost cried out aloud. 

But it was not only the mountains all the near 
things that surrounded and shut her in were of 
the same world. She began to ramble and ex- 
plore, wandering about, and led on step by step 
by the things she saw until it ended in her liter- 
ally living in the open air. 

About a hundred yards from the house was a 
little thicket which was the beginning of the 
woods. Sassafras, sumach, dogwood, and young 
pines and cedars grew in the midst of a thick 
undergrowth of blackberry -vines and bushes. 
The slender but full-branched trees stood very 
close together, and a wild grape-vine roofed them 
with a tangled abundance. 

When she found this place the Small Person 
hungered to get into the very heart of it and feel 
the leaves enclose her and the vine sway about 
her and catch with tendrils at her hair. But that 
was impossible then, because the briers and un- 
dergrowth were so thick as to be impenetrable. 
For some time it was a longing unattained. 

It was a chance, perhaps, which caused it to be 
fulfilled. Some friend of the brothers, during: a 

' *> 



The Dryad Days 269 

visit of some holiday, was inspired to suggest 
that an hour or so of vigorous cutting and prun- 
ing would do wonders for this very spot, and in a 
valiant moment the idea was carried out. 

The Small Person lived in it for two years 
after, and it was called the " Bower." 

The walls of the Bower were branches and 
bushes and lovely brambles, the ceiling was 
boughs bearing bravely the weight of the matted 
vine, the carpet of it was grass and pine-needles, 
and moss. One made one's way to it through a 
narrow path cleared between blackberry and wild- 
rose briers, one entered as if through a gateway 
between two slender sentinel sassafras-trees and 
the air one breathed inside smelled of things 
subtly intoxicating of warm pine and cedar and 
grape-vine blossoms made hot by the sun. 

The Small Person was never quite sober when 
she lay full length on the grass and pine-needles 
on a Summer day and closed her eyes, dilating 
her little nostrils to inhale and sniff slowly the 
breathing of these strange sweet things. She 
was not aware that she was intoxicated, she only 
thought she was exquisitely happy and uplifted 
by a strange, still joy better than anything else 
in life something thrillingly near being the Party. 

She came to the place so much, and spent so 
many hours there, lying on the grass, scribbling 
a bit of a story, sewing a bit of a seam, reading, 



270 The One I Knew the Best of All 

when she could get a book which was rarely- 
thinking out great problems with her eyes open 
or shut, and she was so quiet that the little living 
things actually became accustomed to her, and 
quite unafraid. It became one of her pleasures to 
lie or sit and watch a bird light upon a low branch 
quite near her and sway there, twittering a little 
to himself and giving an occasional touch to his 
feathers, as he made remarks about the place. 
She would not have stirred for worlds for fear of 
startling him. She used to try to imagine what 
he was saying : 

" Dear me ! What a charming place. So de- 
lightfully fresh and cool after one has been flying 
about in the hot sun. And so secluded ! Why 
did not Rosiebeak think of suggesting that I 
should build the nest here ? And none of those 
big, walking-about creatures who don't sing- 

And then, perhaps, his round, bright, dark eye 
fell upon her and he made a nervous little move, 
as if he were going to fly away, but seeing that 
she did not stir, reflected upon her, and then she 
thought he said : 

" What is it? It looks like one of them, but it 
does not move or make a noise, and its eyes look 
friendly." 

And then he would gather courage, if he was an 
enterprising bird, and hop onto a nearer twig and 
examine her, making quick little curious move- 



77ic Dryad Days 



271 



ments with his head and neck. After which he 
would probably fly away. 

But she had an idea that he always came again 
and brought some member of his family and en- 
deavored to explain her to them and tell them that 
his imp ression 
was that she 
would not hurt. 
Many of them, 
she was quite 
sure, came 




CMffiP! 

, , 



again. She believed she recognized them. And 
they became so used to seeing her that they did 
not mind her in the least, and had quarrels and 
reconciliations, and said unpleasant things about 
their relations, and deplored the habits their 
children were getting into, and practised their 
scales just as if she had been one of the fam- 
ily. 

Squirrels had no objection to her, rabbits occa- 
sionally came and looked, and dragon-flies and 
beetles regarded her as of no consequence at all. 



272 The One I Knew tJie Best of All 

" They think I am another kind of little animal," 
she used to delight herself with thinking " an- 
other kind of squirrel or thrush or beetle, or a 
new kind of rabbit they have not seen. Or per- 
haps they think I am a very little cow without 
horns. They don't think I am a person, and they 
know I like them." 

Some mornings she spent there it would be al- 
most impossible to describe. The air, the odors, 
the sounds of insects and birds, the golden-green 
shade of the interlaced vines and branches, the 
delicate shadows of the leaves, the faint rustle of 
them, which only seemed to make the stillness 
more still and full of meaning, wakened in her a 
fine, tender ecstasy, which did not seem to be ex- 
actly a feeling belonging to life on earth. She 
was always alone, and she used to lie in the gold- 
green shade quite motionless, with her eyes closed, 
a curious, rapt fancy in her mind. 

" Somehow," she used to think, " I am not quite 
in my body. It is so beautiful that my soul is try- 
ing to get away like a bird. It has got out of my 
body and it is trying to break loose ; but it is fast- 
ened with a little slender cord, and that holds it. 
It is fluttering and straining: because it wants to 

o o 

fly." 

There was even in her mind a perfectly definite 
idea of how high above her body the little soul 
hovered, straining to break the cord. She fancied 



The Dryad Days 273 

it hovering, with the movement of a poised hum- 
ming-bird, about a yard above her breast- -no 
higher the slender chain was only that long. 

And she used to try to make herself more and 
more still, and centre all her thoughts upon the 
small lifted spirit trying to help it to break the 
chain. 

" If it could break it," she thought, "it would fly 
away- -I don't know where and I should be dead. 
And they would come to the Bower to look for 
me at night when I did not come home, and find 
me lying here. And they would think it was 
dreadful and be so sorry for me ; and nobody 
would know that I had only died because I was so 
happy that my soul broke the chain." 

If in the young all things not quite of earth are 
justly to be considered morbid, then this ecstasy, 
too subtile to be called a mood, was a thing to be 
discouraged ; but it was an emotion all of rapture, 
and was a thing so delicate and strange that she 
kept it silently to herself. 

In the life she spent in wandering about the 
woods, she became perfectly familiar with all their 
resources. She was generally gathering flowers. 
The little house was filled with them to overflow- 
ing. Her hands were always filled as she rambled 
from one place to another. She was always look- 
ing for new ones, and it Avas not long before she 
knew exactly the spots of earth, of dry ness or damp- 

iS 



274 The One I Knew the Best of All 

ness, of shade or sun, in which each one grew. 
She was nearly always by herself, but she was 
never alone when she was among- these intimates of 
hers. She found it quite natural to speak to them, 
to bend down and say caressing things to them, 
to stoop and kiss them, to praise them for their 
pretty ways of looking up at her as into the eyes of 
a friend and beloved. There were certain little 
blue violets who always seemed to lift up their 
small faces childishly, as if they were saying : 

" Kiss me ! Don't go by like that. Kiss me." 
That was what she imagined about them. 

Those were lovely da}s when she found these 
violets. They were almost the very first things 
that came in the Spring. First there was a good 
deal of rain, and when one was getting very tired 
of it there would come a lull. Perhaps it was 
only a lull, and the sun only came out and went 
in with capricious uncertainty. But when the 
lull came the Small Person issued forth. Every- 
thing was wet and smelled deliciously - - the 
mould, the grass, the ferns, the trees, and bushes. 
She was not afraid of the dampness. She was a 
strong little thing, and wore cotton frocks. Gen- 
erally she had no hat. A hat seemed unnecessary 
and rather in the way. She simply roamed 
about as a little sheep or cow would have roamed 
about, going where an odor or a color led her. 
She went through the bushes and undergrowth, 



The Dryad Days 275 

and as she made her way they shook rain-drops 
on her. As she had not known flowers before, 
and did not know people then, she did not learn 
the real names of the flowers she gathered. But 
she knew their faces and places and ways as she 
knew her family. The very first small flower of 
all was a delicate, bounteous thing-, which grew 
in masses and looked like a pale forget-me-not on 
a fragile stem. She loved it because it was so 
ready and so free of itself, and it meant that soon 
the wet grass would be blue with the violets 
which she loved beyond all else of the Spring or 
Summer. She always lost her head a little when 
she saw the first of these small things, but when, 
after a few days more rain, the sun decided to 
shine with warm softness, and things were push- 
ing up through the mould and bursting from the 
branches and trunks of trees, and bluebirds began 
to sine:, and all at once the blue violets seemed to 

o ' 

rusk out of the earth and purple places every- 
where, she became a little mad with a madness 
which was divine. She forgot she was a Small 
Person with a body, and scrambled about the 
woods, forgetting everything else also. She knew 
nothing but the violets, the buds of things, the 
leaves, the damp, sweet, fresh smell. She knelt 
clown recklessly on the wet grass ; if rain began 
to fall she was not driven indoors unless it fell in 
torrents. To make one's way through a wood on 



276 77ie One I Knew the Best of AIL 

a hillside with hands full of cool, wet leaves and 
flowers, and to feel soft, light, fresh rain-drops on 
one's cheek is a joy a joy ! 

With the violets came the blossoming: of the 

o 

dogwood trees and the wild plum things to be 
broken off in branches and carried away over 
one's shoulder, like sumptuous fair banners of 
white bloom. And then the peach- and apple- 
blossom, and new flowers at one's feet on every 
side as one walked through paths or made new 
ones through the woods. As the weather became 
warmer the colors became warmer with it. Then 
the early mornings were spent in the flower hunt, 
the heat of the day in the Bower, the evenings in 
the woods again, the nights upon the porch, 
looked down upon by myriads of jewels trem- 
bling in the vastness of dark blue, or by a moon, 
never the same or in the same setting, and always 
sailing like a boat of pearl in a marvellous, mys- 
terious sea. 

The Small Person used to sit upon the steps of 
the porch, her elbows on her knees, her hands 
supporting her chin, her face upturned, staring, 
staring, in the moments of silence. Something of 
the feeling she had had when she lay upon her 
back on the grass in the Back Garden of Eden al- 
ways came back to her when she began to look up 
at the sky. Though it was so high so high, so 
unattainable, yet this too was a world. Was she 



The Dryad Days 277 

part of it too, as she was part of the growing 
things and the world they belonged to? She was 
not sure of that, but there was a link somewhere 
she was something to it all somehow ! In some 
unknown way she counted as soinctJiing among 
the myriads in the dark, vast blueness perhaps 
for as much as a point of the tiniest star. She 
knew she could not understand, that she was be- 
yond the things understandable, when she had 
this weird updrawn, overwhelming feeling, and 
sat with her chin upon her hands and stared and 
stared and stared so fixedly and with such inten- 
sity, that the earth seemed gone left far behind. 
There was not a season of the year, an hour of 
the day which was not a w^onderful and beautiful 
thing. In the winter there was the snow, the 
clear, sharp air, which seemed actually to sparkle, 
the rose and violet shadows on the mountains, 
the strange, lurid sunsets, with crimsons and scar- 
lets and pale yellows, burning the summits of pur- 
ple banks of cloud ; there was the crisp sound of 
one's feet treading the hardened snow, the green 
of the pines looking emerald against the white- 
ness, the bare tree-tops gray or black against the 
sky, and making the blue intenser ; there were the 
little brown rabbits appearing with cautious hops, 
and poised, sniffing with tremulous noses, their 
large eyes and alert ears alarming them at a 
breath of sound to a wild skurry and disappear- 



278 The One I Knew the Best of All 

ance into space itself. The rabbits were a de- 
lightful feature. The Small Person never was 
able to become intimate with them to the extent 
of being upon speaking terms. They would come 
to the Bower and peep at her in the Summer, but 
in the Winter they always disappeared with that 
lightning rapidity when they heard her. And yet 
if they had known her she was conscious that 
they would have recognized their mistake. She 
had always deplored seeing them suspended by 
their hind legs in the poulterers' shops in Man- 
chester. They looked so soft, and their dulled 
eyes seemed so piteous. 

The Spring was the creation of the world the 
mysterious, radiant, young beginning of living. 
There were the violets and dogwood blossoms, 
and every day new life. In the summer there 
was the Bower, and the roses, and the bees, and 
the warm, aromatic smells in the air. In the 
Autumn a new thing came, and she seemed to 
have drunk something heady again. 

The first Autumn in America was a wondrous 
thing to her. She existed from day to day in a 
sort of breathless state of incredulity. In Man- 
chester, the leaves on the trees in the public park, 
being rained upon until they became sodden and 
brown, dropped off dispirited, and life Avas at an 
end. Even poetry and imaginative prose only 
spoke of " Autumn's russet brown." 



77/6' Dryad Days 279 

But here marvels happened. After a few hot 
days and cool nights, the greenery of the Bower 
began to look strangely golden. As she lay under 
her prettiest sassafras - tree, the Small Person 
found, when she looked up, that something was 
happening to its leaves. They were still fresh, 
and waved and rustled, but they were turning 
pale yellow. Some of them had veins and flushes 
of rose on them. She gathered some and looked 
at them closely. They were like the petals of 
flowers. A few more hot days and cool nights 
and there were other colors. The maple was 
growing yellow and red, the dogwood was crim- 
son, the sumach \vas like blood, the chestnut was 
pale gold, and so was the poplar the trailing 
brambles were painted as if with a brush. The 
Small Person could not believe her eyes, as she 
saw what, each day, went on around her. It 
seemed like a brilliant dream, or some exaggera- 
tion of her senses. 

" It can't really be as scarlet as that when one 
holds it in one's hand," she used to say at sight of 
some high-hued, flauntingly lovely spray. 

And she would stand upon her tiptoes, and 
stretch, and struggle to reach it, and stand pant- 
ing and flushed, but triumphant, with it in her 
hand, finding it as brilliant as it had seemed. 

She began to gather leaves as she had gathered 
flowers, and went about with bowers of branches, 



2 So The One I Knew the Best of All 

flaming and crimson, in her arms. She made 
wreaths of sumach and maple leaves, and wore 
them on her head, and put bunches in her little 
belt, and roamed about all day in this splendor, 
feeling flaunting and inclined to sing. Again, she 
did not know that she was not sober, and that, 
as Bacchantes of old wore wreaths of vine-leaves 
and reeled a little with the blood of the new 
grapes, so she was reeling a little with an exulta- 
tion beautiful and strange. 

There was a certain hollow in a little woodland 
road she loitered about a great deal, where there 
was a view which had always a deep effect upon 
her. 

It was not an imposing view, it was a soft and 
dreamy one. The little road ran between woods 
and pretty wild places, to a higher land clothed 
with forest. The lovely rolling wave of it 
seemed to shut in the world she looked at when 
she stood in the little dip of the road, with wood 
on both sides and the mountains behind her. 

When all the land was aflame with Autumn, 
and she sat on Indian Summer afternoons upon a 
certain large lichen-covered log, she used to gaze, 
dreaming, at the massed tree plumes of scarlet 
and crimson and gold uplifted against the blue 
sky, and softened with a faint, ethereal haze, until 
she had strange unearthly fancies of this too. 

" A place might open in the blue," she used to 



The Dryad Days 281 

say softly to herself. " It might open at any 
moment now while I am sitting here. And 
They might come floating over the trees. They 
would float, and look like faint, white mist at first. 
And if the place in the blue were left open, I 
might see ! ' 

And at such times all was so still so still and 
wonderful, that she used to find herself sitting 

o 

breathless, waiting. 

There were many memories of this hollow 
woodland path. So many flowers grew there, 
and there were always doves making soft mur- 
murs and most tender, lovelorn plaints, high in 
the pines' far tops. She used to stand and listen 
to their cooing, loving it, and in her young, she- 
dove's heart plaining with them, she did not know 
or ask why. 

And there, more than one rainy autumn day, 
she came and stood with her boughs in her arms, 
watching the misty rain veiling the sumptuous 
colors of the wooded hill, feeling, with a kind of 
joyful pleasure, the light-falling drops caressing 
her from her red leaf-wreaths to her damp feet, 
which mattered absolutely nothing. How could 
the wet grass she seemed to have sprung from 
earth with, the fresh cool rain she loved, hurt 
her, a young, young Dryad, in these her Dryad 
days ? 

How many times it befell her to follow this road 



282 The One I Knew the Best of All 

-sometimes running fast, sometimes stealing 
softly, sometimes breaking away from it to plunge 
into the wood and run again until she stopped to 
listen, looking up into some tree, or peering into 
a thicket or bush. 

This was when she was giving herself up to 
what she called " the bird chases." She liked 
them so the birds. She knew nothing of them. 
Birds such as the woods hold had not lived in the 
Square. There had been only serious -minded 
little sparrows nesting in the chimneys and in the 
gutterings. They brought up large families un- 
der the shadows of water-piping, and taught them 
to fly on the wet slates. They were grateful for 
crumbs, particularly in snowy weather, and the 
Nursery patronized them. But they were not 
bluebirds with a brief little trill of Spring carolled 
persistently from all sorts of boughs and fence 
corners ; they were not scarlet birds with black 
velvet marks and crests ; they were not yellow 
birds like stray canaries, or chattering jays, or 
mocking-birds w r ith the songs of all the woods in 

o o 

their throats ; they were not thrushes and wrens, 
or woodpeckers drumming and tapping in that 
curiously human way. 

As there had been no one to tell her the actual 
names of the flowers, so there was no one to tell 
her the real names of the birds. She used to ask 
the negroes who lived at the foot of Mount Ara- 



The Dryad Days 283 

rat, but the result was so unsatisfactory that she 
gave it up. 

" What is that little bird that sings like this, 
Aunt Cynthy?' she would say, trying to imitate 
its note. " It is a little blue thing." 

" That's the bluebird," seemed rather incom- 
plete to her at the outset. 

" And the bright red one with the black marks 
and crest?' 

" That's the redbird," which did not seem much 
more definite. 

" I can sec they are blue and red," she used to 
say. " Haven't they a name ? ' 

But they had no other name, and when the 
birds described were less marked in color there 
seemed to be no names at all. So she began to 
commit the birds to memory, learning their notes 
and colors and forms by heart. In this way were 
instituted the bird chases. 

If she heard a new song or note she ran after it 
until she saw the bird and could watch him pip- 
ing or singing. It was very interesting and led 
her many a mile. 

Sometimes she believed birds came and sang 
near her, under cover, for the mere fun of leading 
her through the woods. They would begin on a 
tree near by and then fly away and seem to hide 
again until she followed them. She always fol- 
lowed until she caught sight, of her bird. But 



284 The One I Knew the Best of All 

they had wonderful ways of eluding her, and led 
her over hill and dale, and through thicket and 
brambles, and even then sometimes got away. 

There was one with a yellow breast and a 
queer little cry which she pursued lor several 
days, but she saw him at last and afterward be- 
came quite familiar with him. And there was 
one, who was always one of two a tender, sad 
little thing who could never be alone, and who 
was always an unanswered problem to her, and 
somehow, above all, her best beloved. It was a 
mystery because no one ever seemed to have seen 
it but herself, and her description of it was never 
recognized. 

It was a little bird a tiny one, a soft, small, 
rounded one, with a black velvet cap, and on its 
first appearance it came and sat upon the rail of 
the veranda, and waited there, uttering a piteous 
little note. She knew that it was waiting and 
was calling to its mate because it was a timid lit- 
tle thing, existing only under the cover of his 
wing and love. He could only be a small creat- 
ure himself, but the Small Person felt that in the 
round, bright, timid eyes he was a refuge from the 
whole large world, the brief, soft, plaintive cry for 
him was so pathetically trustful in its appealing. 

The Small Person, who was sitting on the 
wooden steps, was afraid to stir for fear of fright- 
ening her. 



The Dryad Days 285 

" You poor little mite," she murmured, " don't 
be so sorrowful. He'll come directly." 

And when he did come and was lovingly re- 
joiced over, and the tiny pair flew away together, 
she was quite relieved. 

There was something in the brief, plaintive note 
which always led her to follow it when she heard 
it afterward, which only happened at rare inter- 
vals. There seemed to be some sad little ques- 
tion or story in it which she could not help wish- 
ing she could understand. But she never did, 
though each time she heard the sound she ran to 
look for it, and stood beneath its tree looking up 
with a sense of a persistent question in her own 
breast. What was it about? What did it want? 
What was it sad for? She never heard the tiny 
thing without finding it huddled down patiently 
upon some bough or spray, calling for its mate. 
And to her it never had any other name than the 
one she s^ave it of " The little mournful bird." 

o 

These Dryad days were of the first years of her 
teens. They were the early Spring of her young 
life. And she was in Love in Love with morn- 
ing, noon, and night; with Spring and Summer 
and Winter ; with leaves and roots and trees ; 
with rain and dew and sun ; with shadows and 
odors and winds ; with all the little living things ; 
with the rapture of being and unknowingness and 
mere Life with the whole World. 



CHAPTER XV. 

My Object is Remuneration 



SHE always felt herself under a personal obli- 
gation to Christopher Columbus. The years in 
which came the Dryacl days would have been 
very different if they had been spent in the 
Square or within reach of it. Reduced resources 
in a great town or city where one has lived al- 
ways, mean change of habits and surroundings, 
shabbiness, anxiety, and annoyance. They mean 
depression and dreariness, loss of courage, and 
petty humiliations without end. In a foreign 
land among mountains and forests they mean se- 
clusion, freedom, and novelty. It is novelty to 
live in a tiny white house, to wait upon one's self 
and everyone else, to wear a cotton frock and 
chase birds through the woods without the en- 

C5 

cuinbrances of hats and gloves and parasols. It 
is also freedom. But in Dryad days lived in an 
unsylvan age a serious reduction of resources is 
felt. Detail seems unnecessary, but, without en- 
tering into detail, it may be stated that this re- 
duction of resource was felt on the summit of 
Mount Ararat. Alas ! one cannot live always in 



Object is Remuneration' 287 

the Bower, one must come home to dinner and to 
bed. Material and painful but unavoidable. Even 
cotton frocks wear out and must be washed. And 
the openings for the Boys had not been of suf- 
ficient size to allow of their passing through to 
ease and fortune. The consequences were curi- 
ous sometimes and rather trying. 

" We are decayed ladies and gentlemen," the 
Small Person used to say to herself. " We ought 
to be living in a ruined feudal castle and have 

o 

ancient servitors who refuse to leave us and will 
not take any wages. But it is not at all like that." 
It was not at all. 

It was so very unlike it that there were occa- 
sions when she gathered her leaves and flowers 
with a thoughtful little frown on her forehead, 
and when she talked the matter over with Edith 
or Mamma. Edith was the practical member of 
the family. 

" If one could do something ! " she said, thought- 
fully. 

But there are so few things to do if one is very 
young and quite inexperienced and lives on the 
top of Mount Ararat. 

Still the serious necessity increased and she 
pondered over it more and more. 

" I wish I could do something," she said next. 
She began to have long discussions with Edith as 
to what one might invent as a means of resource 

o 



283 The One I Knew the Best of AIL 

-what one could teach or learn or make. But 
nothing proved practicable. 

There was a queer little room with unfinished 
walls and rafters where she had a table by a win- 
dow and wrote stories in wet or cold weather when 




the Bower was out of the question. There was no 
fireplace and she used to sit wrapped in a shawl 
for warmth. She had a little cat which always 
followed her and jumped upon the table when she 
sat down, curling up in the curve of her left arm. 
The little cat's name was Dora, and it was also a 



"My Object is Remuneration' 289 

Small Person. It had a clearly defined character, 
and understood that it was assisting in literary 
efforts. It also added to the warmth the shawl 
gave. Edith used to come upstairs to the rough 
little room and talk to her, and gradually she got 
into the habit of reading to her pieces of the 
stories. She began with extracts - - speeches, 
scenes, chapters and led on by the delight of her 
audience, which was stimulating as that of the 
Listeners, she read all she wrote. 

Edith was a delightful listener. She was an 
emotional little being, and exquisitely ready with 
tears, and uncontrolled in laughter. She was at 
the same time a remarkable Small Person and sin- 
gularly perceptive. 

They used to sit and talk over the stories telling 
each other what they liked best or were not quite 
sure of. The Small Person had a curious feeling 
that in reading to Edith she was submitting her 
creations to a sort of infallible critic one who was 
infallible not through experience or training, but 
through a certain unfailing truth of sentiment and 
emotion, and an unfaltering good taste. It must 
be recorded, however, that neither of them for a 
moment contemplated the chance of a larger pub- 
lic existing for the stories. Never for an instant 
had it occurred to the Small Person that they were 
worth publishing. That would have seemed to 
her a height of presumption quite grotesque. 
19 



290 The One I Knezv the Best of AIL 

They were hidden from the Boys as carefully as 
ever, and derided as mercilessly when they were 
mentioned by them. " Frances's love stories ' 
were an unfailing source of jocular entertainment. 
It was never ill-natured entertainment, and there 
was plenty of rough young wit in it ; but naturally 
a young Briton finds it rather a lark to contem- 
plate the thought of a small girl he has chaffed and 
patronized all his life secreting herself to write 
pages of romantic description of the emotions of 
" a case of spoons." The Boys were fond of her, 
and their intercourse was marked by bounteous 
good-nature and the best of tempers and spirits, 
but their impression naturally was that the stories 
would be " bosh." But she continued to write 
them with the little cat curled in her left arm- 
and read them to Edith. It was the " Answers 
to Correspondents " in various magazines which 
inspired her with her tremendously daring 
thought. Things like these : 

" Elaine the Fair.- -Your story has merit, but is 
not quite suited to our columns. Never write on 
both sides of your paper." 

" ChristabeL- -We do not return rejected manu- 
script unless stamps are enlosed for postage." 

" Blair of Athol.--We accept your poem, ' The 
Knight's Token.' Shall be glad to hear from you 
again." 

She read them on the final pages of Godeys 



"My Object is Remuneration' 291 

Ladys Book and Peterson's Magazine, etc. Her 
circumstances were not sufficiently princely to 
admit of her being among the subscribers, but oc- 
casionally a copy or so drifted in her way. They 
were much read at that time in the locality. 

She was reading these absorbing replies to the 
correspondents one day when a thought floated 
into her mind, and after a few moments of indefi- 
niteness took shape and presented itself before 
her. She blushed a little at first because it had 
such an air of boldness. She rather thrust it 
aside, but after a while she found herself con- 
templating it as if from afar off. 

" I wonder how much they pay for the stories 
in magazines," she said, reflectively, to Edith. 

Edith did not know, naturally, and had not 
formed any opinion. 

" I wonder if they pay much," the Small Per- 
son continued ; " and what sort of people write 
them?" It seemed impossible that ordinary, 
every-day people could write things that would 
be considered worth paying for and publishing in 
magazines. It seemed to imply immense talents 
and cultivation and training and enormous dignity. 

She did not think this because she found the 
stories invariably brilliant, but because she felt 
that there must be some merit she was not clever 
enough to detect ; if not they would never have 
been published. 



292 The One I Knew the Best of All 

" Sometimes they are not so awfully clever," 
she said. 

" Well," said Edith, boldly, " I've seen lots of 
them not half as nice as yours." 

" Ah ! ' she exclaimed, conscious of being beset 
by her sheepish feeling ; u that's because you are 
my sister." 

" No, it isn't," said the valiant Edith, with her 
favorite little pucker of her forehead. " I don't 
care whether I'm your sister or not. Some of 
your stories are beautiful ! ' 

The Small Person blushed, because she was of 
the Small Persons who are given to superfluous 
blushing. u I wonder," she said, " if the maga- 
zine people would think so." 

" I don't know anything about magazine peo- 
ple," said Edith ; " but I don't see why they 
shouldn't think so." 

" They wouldn't," said the Small Person, with 
a sudden sense of discouragement. " Of course 
they wouldn't." 

But she could not help the thought of the an- 
swered correspondents returning to her after- 
ward. She found herself wondering about them 
as she rambled through the woods or lay on the 
grass in the Bower. How did they send their 
stories to the magazines ? Was it by post or 
by express? If it was by post how many stamps 
would it take ? How could one find out ? It 



< i 



My Object is Remuneration ' 293 



would be important that one should put on 
enough. She remembered " answers ' such as 
this: "March Hare.--We cannot receive MSS. 
on which insufficient postage has been paid." It 
was evidently necessary to make a point of the 
postage. 

Then there was the paper. To meet the ap- 
proval of an august being it seemed as if some- 
thing special must be required. And more than 
once she had read instructions of such a nature 
as: " Airy, Fairy Lilian. --Write in a clear hand 
on ordinary foolscap paper." 

She was only fifteen, and her life had been 
spent between the Square and the Bower. Her 
horizon had not been a broad one, and had not 
embraced practical things. She had had no per- 
sonal acquaintance with Ordinary Foolscap. If 
the statement had demanded extraordinary fools- 
cap she would have felt it only natural. 

Somehow she found a timid, but growing in- 
terest in the whole subject. She could not quite 
get away from it. And when circumstances oc- 
curred which directed her attention specially to 
the results of the reduced resources she was led 
to dwell on it with a certain sense of fascination. 

" Something must be done ! ' she said to her- 
self, desperately. " We can't go on like this. 
Someone must do something." 

The three little girls talked together at times 



294 The One I Knew the Best of All 

quite gloomily. They all agreed that Somebody 
must do something. The Boys were doing their 
best, but luck did not seem to be with them. 

44 Something must be done," the Small Person 
kept repeating. 

" Yes," replied Edith, " but what must it be and 
Who will do it?" 

The people whose stories were bought and 
printed must some time have sent their first 
stories. And they could not have known whether 
they were really good or not until they had asked 
and found out. The only way of finding out was 
to send one written in a clear hand on one side of 
ordinary foolscap having first made quite sure 
that it had stamps enough on it. If a person had 
the courage to do that, he or she would at least 
hear if it was worth reading if a stamp was en- 
closed. 

These were the reflections with which the Small 
Person's mind was occupied. 

And if it was worth reading if the August Be- 
ing deigned to think it so and was not rendered 
rabid and infuriate by insufficient postage, or in- 
distinct writing, or by having to read on both 
sides of the ordinary foolscap, if he was in need 
of stories for his magazine, and if he was in a good 
temper he might accept it and buy it. 

If the Listeners had liked her stories so much, 
if Edith and Edwina liked them, if Edith thought 



i > 



My Object is Remuneration ' 295 



they were as nice as some she had read in Godeys 
Ladys Book, might it not be just possible that- 
that an Editor might deign to read one and per- 
haps even say that it " had merit," even if it was 
not good enough to buy. If he said that much, 
she could study the stones in the Ladys Book, 
etc., assiduously enough, perhaps, to learn the se- 
cret of their success, and finally do something 
which might be worthy to compete with them. 

She was a perfectly unassuming child. She had 
never had any feeling about her story-telling but 
that it seemed part of herself- -something she 
could not help doing. Secretly she had been 
afraid, as time went by, that she had been Ro- 
mantic with the Doll, and in private she was 
afraid that she was Romantic about the stories. 
The idea that anyone but the Listeners and Edith 
and Edwina would be likely to care to hear or 
read them had never entered her mind. The 
cheerful derision of the Boys added to her sensi- 
tive shyness about them, and upon the whole she 
regarded her little idiosyncrasy as a thing to be 
kept rather quiet. Nothing but actual stress ot 
circumstances would have spurred her to the 
boldness of daring to hope for them. But in 
those days Noah's Ark found itself lacking such 
common things things which could not be dis- 
pensed with even by the most decayed of ladies 
and gentlemen. 



296 The One I Knew the Best of All 

So one day after many mental struggles she 
found herself sitting with Edith and the little 
cat, in the small room with the bare walls and 
rafters. And she gathered her courage in both 
hands. 

" Edith," she said, " I've been thinking about 
something." 

Edith looked at her with interest. She was a 
lovely little person and a wonderful friend for her 
years which were thirteen. 

"What is it?" she said. 

" Do you think do you think it would be silly 
to send one of my stories to a magazine and 
see if they would take it ? ' 

I cannot help believing that at the first moment 
Edith rather lost her breath. The two were Eng- 
lish children, brought up in a simple English nurs- 
ery in the most primitively conventional way. 
Such a life is not conducive to a spirit of bold- 
ness and enterprise. In matters of point of view 
they would have seemed to the American mind 
incredibly young for their years. If they had 
been American children they would have been 
immensely cooler and far less inclined to ultra- 
respectful attitudes toward authority. 

" Do you ? " said the Small Person. " Do you ? ' 

Edith gathered herself together also. Across 
a lifetime the picture of her small face rises with 
perfect distinctness. She was a fair little person, 



^^^ Object is Remuneration ' 297 

with much curling blond hair and an expressive 
little forehead which had a habit of puckering it- 
self. She was still startled, but she bore herself 
with a courage which was heroic. 

" No," she answered, " I don't ! " 

If she had said that she did, the matter might 
have ended there, but as it was, the Small Person 
breathed again. She felt the matter might be 
contemplated and approached more nearly. One 
might venture at least to talk about it in private. 

" I have been thinking and thinking about it," 
she said. " Even if they are not good enough to 
be published it would not do any harm just to 
try. They can only be sent back and then I 
should know. Do you think we dare do it?" 

" If I were you I would," said Edith. 

" I believe," hesitated the Small Person, " I do 
believe I will." 

Edith began to become excited. 

" Oh," she said, " I think it would be splendid ! 
What would you send ? ' 

" I should have to write something new. I 
haven't anything ready that I should care to 
send. I'd write something carefully- -just as well 
as I could. There's a story I began to write when 
we lived in the Square, three years ago. I never 
finished it, and I only wrote scenes out of it in 
old account-books ; but I remember what it was 
about, and the other day I found an old book 



298 The One I Knew the Best of AIL 

with some scraps of it in. And I really do think 
it's rather nice. And I might finish it, perhaps." 
She began to tell the story, and became exhila- 
rated with the telling, as she always did, and 
Edith thought it an enchanting story, and so it 
was decided that it should be finished and put to 
the test. 

" But there's one thing," she said, " I would not 
have the Boys know for anything in the world. 
They would laugh so, and they would think it 
such a joke if it was sent back again. I'm going 
to put in stamps to send it back with, because if 
you put on stamps enough they will send it back. 
And perhaps they wouldn't take the trouble to 
write a letter if the) 7 didn't like it and I didn't 
send the extra stamps. You often see in maga- 
zines a notice that manuscript will be returned if 
stamps are sent. So in that way I shall be sure 
to find out. But I must get them without the 
Boys knowing." 

" Yes, you must," said Edith. " They would 
tease you so if it came back. But what are you 
going to do? You know there isn't any money 
now but what the Boys get. And that's little 
enough, goodness knows." 

" We shall have to think about it," said the 
Small Person, " and contrive. It will take a good 
deal of contriving, but I have to write the story 
first." 



"My Object is Remuneration' 299 

"Do you think it will take many stamps?" 
asked Edith, beginning to pucker her expressive 
little forehead, anxiously. 

"Yes, a good many, I'm afraid," was the Small 
Person's answer. " And then we have to buy the 
foolscap paper ordinary foolscap. But of all 
things promise and swear you won't breathe a 
word before the Boys." 

It was a marvel that they did not betray them- 
selves in some way. It was so thrilling a secret. 
While the story was being written they could 
think and talk of nothing else. The Small Person 
used to come down from the raftered Temple of 
the Muses with her little cat under her arm, and 
her cheeks a blaze of scarlet. The more absorbed 
and interested she was the more brilliant her 
cheeks were. 

" How red your cheeks are, my dear," Mamma 
would say. " Does your head ache ? ' 

But her head did not ache, though it would 
have done, if she had not been a splendidly strong 
little animal. 

" I always know when you've been writing very 
fast," Edith used to say ; " your cheeks always 
look so flaming red." 

It was not long, of course, before Mamma was 
taken into confidence. What she thought it 
would be difficult to say, but she was lovable 
and sustaining as usual. 



300 The One I Knew the Best of All 

" It won't do any harm to try, dear," she said. 
" It seems to me you write very nice things, for 
one so young, and perhaps some of the edi- 
tors might like them ; and, of course, it would 
be a great help if they would pay you a little 
money." 

" But the Boys mustn't know one word," said 
the Small Person. " I'll tell them if it's accepted, 
but if it isn't, I'd rather be dead than that they 
should find out." 

And so the story went on, and it was read 
aloud under the rafters, and Edith revelled in it, 
and the little cat lay curled up in the Small Per- 
son's left arm, quite undisturbed by the excite- 
ment in the atmosphere around her. And as 
the work went on the two plotters discussed and 
planned and contrived. 

First, how to get the ordinary foolscap to 
copy out the manuscript in a beautiful clear 
hand ; next, how to get the address of the Editor 
to be approached ; next, how to address him ; 
next, how to find out how many stamps would 
be necessary to carry the fateful package and 
bring it back, if such was to be its doom. 

It had all to be done in such secrecy and with 
such precautions. To walk to town and back 
was a matter of two or three hours, and the Boys 
would wonder if they did not hear why a journey 
had been made. They always saw the person 



"My Object is Remuneration* 301 

who went to town. Consequently no member of 
the household could go without attracting atten- 
tion. So some outsider must be found who'could 
make the journey to visit a book-store and find 
the address required. It would have been all so 
simple if it had not been for the Boys. 

But by the time the story was finished an ac- 
quaintance who lived on a neighboring farm had 
procured the address and some information about 
the stamps, though this last could not be applied 
very definitely, as the weight of the package 
could only be guessed at, in the absence of letter- 
scales. 

The practical views of the Small Person at 
this crisis impress me greatly. They were so 
incompatible with her usual vagueness and ro- 
mancings that they strike me as rather deliciously 
incongruous. 

" I must have the right kind of paper," she 
argued, " because if I sent something that seemed 
queer to them they would think me silly to begin 
with. And I must write it very plainly, so that 
it will be easy to read, and on only one side, be- 
cause if they are bothered by anything it will 
make them feel cross and they will hate me, and 
hate my story too. Then, as to the letter I send 
with it, I must be very careful about that. Of 
course they have a great many such letters and 
they must be tired of reading them. So I must 



302 The One I Knew the Best of All 

make it very short. I would send it without a 
letter, but I must make them understand that I 
want it sent back if they don't like it, and call 
their attention to the stamps and let them know 
I am doing it for money and not just for the fun 
of getting the story published." 

"How will you tell them that?' asked Edith, 
a trifle alarmed. It seemed so appalling and in- 
delicate to explain to an Editor that you wanted 
money. 

The Small Person felt the same thing. She 
felt this sordid mention of an expectation of re- 
ceiving dollars and cents in return for her work 
a rather gross thing a bold thing which might 
cause the Editor to receive a severe shock and 
regard her with cold disgust as a brazen Small 
Person. Upon the whole, it was the most awful 
part of the situation. But there was no help for 
it. Having put her hand to the plough she could 
not turn back, or trifle with the chance that the 
Editor might think her a well-to-do Small Person, 
who did not write stories for publication through 
sheer need, but for amusement. 

" I shall have to think that over," she said, seri- 
ously. " I don't want to offend them, of course, 
but I must tell them that ! " 

If it were possible to depict in sufficiently 
strong colors her mental impressions of the man- 
ners, idiosyncrasies, and powers of an Editor, the 



' My Object is Remuneration ' 303 

picture would be an interesting one. It was an 
impression so founded upon respect and un- 
bounded awe. Between an utterly insignificant 
little girl in the mountains of East Tennessee and 
an Editor in a princely official apartment in Phil- 
adelphia or New York, invested by Fate with 
the power to crush people to the earth and re- 
duce them to impalpable dust by refusing their 
manuscripts or to raise them to dizziest pin- 
nacles of bliss by accepting them there was a 
gulf imagination could not cross. Buddha him- 
self, sitting in rapt passiveness with folded hands 
and down-dropped lids, was not so marvellous or 
so final. Editors presented themselves to her as 
representing a distinct superhuman race. It 
seemed impossible that they were moved by the 
ordinary emotions and passions of mankind. 
Why she was pervaded with a timorousness, with 
regard to them, which only Mad Bulls or Tigers 
with hydrophobia would have justified, it is not 
easy to explain. Somehow the picture of an Edi- 
tor rendered infuriate " gone must" as it were- 
in consequence of an inadequacy of stamps, or a 
fault in punctuation, or as a result of indistinct 
handwriting covering both sides of the ordinary 
foolscap, was a thing which haunted both her 
waking and sleeping hours. He would return 
the manuscript with withering comment, or per- 
haps not return it at all, and keep all the stamps, 



304 The One I Kneiv the Best of AIL 

which might be considered perfectly proper for 
an Editor if one broke his Mede and Persian 
laws. Such a being as this must be approached 
with salaams and genuflections, and forehead 
touching the dust. 

Poor, little, anxious girl ; I find her rather 
touching at this distance sitting in her raftered 
room, scribbling hotly, with her little cat in her 
arm, and her cheeks like scarlet flame. But she 
could not write the explanatory letter to the Edi- 
tor until she had got the money to buy the paper 
to copy the story and the stamps to send it. And 
how to do this without applying to the Boys ? 
The rafters and the little cat presided over hours 
of planning and discussion. What could be 
done. 

" If we could make some money ourselves," 
said the Small Person, mournfully. 

" But we can't," said Edith. " We've tried, you 
know." 

" Yes," said the Small Person. " Embroidery- 
and people don't want it. Music lessons peo- 
ple think I'm too young. Chickens and they 
wouldn't hatch, and when they did they died of 
the gapes ; besides the bother of having to sit on 
the hen to make her sit on the nest, and live 
at full speed round the yard chasing them back 
into the coops when they get through holes. 
Out of all that setting of goose-eggs only one 



"My Object is Remuneration' 305 

hatched, and that wasn't a goose it was a 
gander and a plank fell on it and killed it." 

They both indulged in a rueful giggle. The 
poultry-raising episode had been a very trying 
and exciting one. 

" If we had something to sell," she went on. 

" We haven't," said Edith. 

The Story touched the Small Person sadly on 
the shoulder. 

" It would be awfully mournful," she said, " if I 
really could write stories that people would like- 
and if I could sell them and get money enough to 
make us quite comfortable if all that good fort- 
une was in me and I never found it out all my 
life just because I can't buy some paper and pos- 
tage-stamps." 

It seemed too tragic. They sat and looked at 
each other in gloom. The conversation ended 
after a short time in desperate discouragement, 
and the Small Person was obliged to wander out 
to her hollow on the woodland road and stand for 
a long time looking at the changing trees, listen- 
ing with a strange feeling to the sorrowful plain- 
ing of the doves on the tops of the pine-trees. 

As the leaves were changing then, it cannot 
have been very long before the inspiration came 
which solved the problem. Who gave the in- 
formation which gave rise to it is not a detail 
which anyone can remember. Something- or 
20 



i 



06 The One I Kneiv the Best of Ait 



other makes it seem probable that it was Edwina, 
who came into the writing-room one day and sat 
down, saying, a propos of nothing in particular: 

" Aunt Cynthy's two girls made a dollar yester- 
day by selling wild grapes in the market. They 
got them in the woods over the hill." 

"Which hill?" asked the Small Person. 

" The hill near the house the one you can see 
out of the window. They say there are plenty 
there." 

" Are there ? " said the Small Person. 

" 1 wonder how much they got a gallon ? " said 
Edith. 

" I don't know," said Edwina. " But they sold 
a dollar's worth, and they say they are going to 
gather more." 

" Edith ! " exclaimed the Small Person, " Edith ! " 
A brilliant idea had come to her. She felt her 
cheeks grow hot. 

" Suppose," she said, " suppose we went and 
gathered some a whole lot and suppose we 
gave the girls part of the money to sell them for 
us in the market perhaps we should get enough 
to buy the stamps and paper." 

It seemed an inspiration of the gods. It was as 
if some divine chance had been given to them. 
Edith and Edwina clapped their hands. If wild 
grapes had been sold they would sell again ; if the 
woods were full of them why should they not 



"My Object is Remuneration' 307 

gather them quarts, gallons, bucketfuls of them 
as many as necessity required. 

There arose an excited, joyous gabbling at 
once. It would be delightful. It would be fun 
in itself. It would be like going gypsying. And 
if there were really a great many grapes, they 
might be sold for more money than would pay 
for the stamps. 

" It's a good thing we are not living in the 
Square now," said the Small Person. " We 
couldn't go and gather wild grapes in Back Syd- 
ney Street." 

Suddenly they felt rich and hopeful, //"they 
found grapes enough if they were sold z/the 
Editor was in a benign humor, who could tell 
what might happen. 

" If they buy this one," said the Small Person, 
" I can write others, and perhaps they will buy 
those too. I can always make up stories. 
Wouldn't it be queer if it turned out that was the 
thing I have to do. You know how we have 
kept saying, l Something must be done.' Oh ! 
Edith, wouldn't it be beautiful ! ' 

" Of course it would be beautiful," answered 
Edith. 

" Perhaps," sighed the Small Person, " it is too 
nice to be true. But we'll go and get the wild 
grapes." 

And so they did. 



308 The One I Knew the Best of All 

It was Edith who arranged the detail. She 
saw the little mulatto girls and talked with them. 
They were greatly pleased at the idea of selling 
the grapes. They would pilot the party to places 
where they believed there were vines, and they 
would help in the gathering, themselves. The 
expedition began to wear the air of an exhilarat- 
ing escapade. 

It would have been a delightful thing to do, 
even if it had been arranged merely as a holiday. 
They issued forth to conquer in the wildest spir- 
its. Each one carried a tin bucket, and each 
wore a cotton frock, and a sun-bonnet or a utili- 
tarian straw hat. The sun was rather hot, but 
the day was a golden one. There was gold in 
the trees, gold in the air, gold in the distances. 
The speculators had no decorum in their method. 
They chased about the warm, yellowing woods 
like wild things. They laughed and shouted to 
each other when they scrambled apart. They 
forced their way through undergrowth, and tore 
their way through brambles ; they clambered 
over great logs; they uttered wild little shrieks 
at false alarms of snakes ; they shouted with joy 
when they came upon vines; they filled their 
buckets, and ate grapes to repletion, and swung 
on the rope like vines themselves. 

The Small Person had never been less sober. 
At intervals she roamed awav a little, and stood 



My Object is Remuneration ' 309 



in some warm, golden place, with young trees 
and bushes closed about her, simply breathing 
the air, and enraptured with a feeling of being 



mmmv>. -/, 

:. 



ar^f. tipf 'if!' 1 m> wm'~~-<w< J t-Zg&'Z, ' '-' 




like a well- 
sunned In- 
dian peach. 
Her cheeks 
had such an 
Autumn heat in 
them- -that glow 
which is not like the heat 
of summer. And what a 

day of dreams. If if if! " If" is such a charm- 
ing word such a benign one such a sumptuous 
one. One cannot always say with entire sense of 
conviction, " I have a kingdom and a princely 



3io The Otie I Knew the Best of All 

fortune, and 1 will build a palace of gold ' -but 
who cannot say, " If I had a kingdom and the fort- 
une of a prince, I would build a palace of gold." 
The golden palace rises fair, and one almost hears 
the courtiers speak. "If gives a shadow, the 
substance of which would be a poorer thing. 

She built her palaces that day, and furnished 
them, and lived in them, as she searched for her 
wild grapes. They were innocent palaces, and 
small ones, for she was a very young and vague 
thing; but they were things of light and love and 
beauty, and filled with the diaphanous forms of 
the beliefs and dreams only such young palaces 
can hold. 

The party went home at sunset with its tin 
pails full to the brim and covered with fresh vine- 
leaves. 

" We shall get two or three dollars fer these," 
said one of the pilots. " Me an' Ser'phine didn't 
have nigh onto as many that other time." 

" Now if they sell them," said Edith and the 
Small Person when they got home, " we shall 
have the paper and the postage-stamps." 

It seems to be regretted that the amount they 
sold for cannot be recalled but it was enough to 
buy the postage-stamps and paper and pay all 
expenses, and even leave something over. The 
business part of the speculation was a complete 
success. 



"My Object is Remuneration' 311 

With what care the ordinary foolscap was 
chosen ; with what discreet precautions that it 
should be of the right size and shade, and should 
not enrage the Editor the instant he saw it. How 
large and round and clear each letter was made in 
the copying. An Editor who was afflicted with 
cataract might have read it half-way across his 
.palatial sanctum. And then the letter that was 
written to accompany the venture ! How it was 
reflected upon, and reasoned about, and discussed ! 
" An Editor does not want to know anything about 
me" the Small Person said. " He does not know 
me, and he doesn't care about me, and he won't 
want to be bothered. I shall just say I have en- 
closed the stamps to send the manuscript back 
with, if he does not want it. And I shall have to 
speak about the money. You see, Edith, if the 
stories are worth writing, they must be worth 
reading, and if they are worth printing and read- 
ing they must be worth paying for, and if they are 
not worth publishing and reading they are not 
worth writing, and I had better not waste my time 
on them." Whence this clear and practical point 
of view it would be difficult to say. But she was 
quite definite about it. The urgency of the situa- 
tion had made her definite. Perhaps at a crisis 
she became practical but it was only at a crisis. 

And after serious deliberation and. much re writ- 
ins: and elimination the following 1 concise and un- 

o o 



312 The One I Knew the Best of All 

mistakable epistle was enclosed in a roll of manu- 
script with enough extra stamps to have remailed 
an Editor : 

44 SIR : 1 enclose stamps for the return of the 
accompanying MS., * Miss Desborough's Difficul- 
ties,' if you do not find it suitable for publication 
in your magazine. My object is remuneration. 

" Yours Respectfully, 

" F. HODGSON." 

This was all except the address, which was that 
of the post-office of the neighboring town. Both 
Edith and herself were extremely proud of the 
closing sentence. It sounded so business-like. 
And no Editor could mistake it. And if this one 
was offended it positively could not be helped. 

" And it's true," she said. " I never should have 
dreamed of sending a thing to an Editor if I hadn't 
been obliged to. My object is remuneration." 

And then they could not help breaking into 
childish giggles at the comical aspect of their hav- 
ing done a thing so bold, and their ideas of what 
the Editor would think if he could see the two 
curly and innocent Small Persons who had written 
that unflinchingly mercenary sentence. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

And So Skc Did 

IT is a simple enough matter to send a story 
with a serene mind to Editors one knows, and of 
whom one is aware that they possess the fine in- 
tellectual acumen which leads them to appreciate 
the boon bestowed upon them, and the firmness to 
contemplate with some composure the fact that 
one's " object is remuneration." But it is quite a 
different affair to send one's timid and defenceless 
first-born into the cave of an unknown dragon, 
whose fangs may be dripping with the blood of 
such innocents. 

Oh, the counting of the hours which elapse be- 
fore it reaches its destination, and the awful thrill 
of realizing that perhaps at the very hour one is 
living through, the Editor is Reading it ! The 
Small Person did not lose any quakings or heart- 
beats to which she was entitled by the situation. 
She experienced them all to the utmost, and even 
invented some new ones. She, and Edith quaked 
together. 

It was so awful not to know anything whatever, 
to be so blankly ignorant of editorial habits and 



314 The One I Knew tlie Best of All 

customs. How long did an Editor keep a manu- 
script before he accepted it, or put all the stamps 
on with a blow and sent it back? Did he send it 
back the day after he had read it, or did he keep 
it for months or years ? Might one become old 
and gray without knowing whether one's story 
was accepted or rejected ? If he accepted it, 
would he send the money at once or would he 
wait a long time, and how much would it be when 
it came ? Five dollars ten twenty a hundred? 
Could it possibly be as much as a hundred ! And 
if it could be a hundred oh ! what things could be 
done with it, and how every body could live hap- 
pily forever after ! 

" I could write one in a week," the Small Per- 
son said. " That would be four hundred dollars a 
month ! Oh ! no, Edith," breathlessly, " it couldnt 
be a hundred ! ' This was because it seemed im- 
possible that any one could make four hundred 
dollars a month by her stories and really retain 
her senses. 

She felt it was better to restrain such frenzy and 
discipline herself by putting it as low as possible. 

" Suppose it is only about a dollar," she said. 
" I'm sure it's worth more, but they might be 
very stingy. And we want money so much- 
we are so obliged to have it, that I suppose 1 
should be forced to let them have it for a dollar 
and even go on writing more." 



And So She Did :i> 

j j 

" It couldnt be as little as that," said Edith. 

" It would be rather cheap even for me," said 
the Small Person, and she began to laugh a little 
hysterically. " A dollar story ! ' 

Then she began to make calculations. She was 
not at all good at calculations. 

" The magazine costs two dollars a year," she 
pondered. " And if they have fifty thousand sub- 
scribers, that would make a hundred thousand 
dollars a year. They haven't many stories in each 
number. Some of the magazines have more 
than fifty thousand subscribers ! Edith," with a 
little gasp, " suppose it was a thousand dollars ! ' 

They vibrated like pendulums from light-head- 
ed ecstacy to despair. 

" They'll send it back," she said, in hopeless 
downfall, " or they'll keep the stamps and they 
won't send it back at all, and I shall wait weeks, 
and weeks, and weeks, and never know anything 
about it. And all this thinking and hoping and 
contriving will have gone for worse than noth- 



ing ! ' 



She ended with tears in her eyes, half-laughing 
at herself because they were there, and she was 
an emotional Small Person, who had also a sense 
of the humor of her own exaggerations. She was 
a creature who laughed a great deal, and was 
much given to making her sisters and brothers 
laugh. She liked to say ridiculous things and ex- 



316 Tke One I Knew the Best of All 

aggerate her views of a situation until they be- 
came grotesque and she was obliged to laugh 
wildly at them herself. " The family's Ups and 
the family's Downs ' were a source of unbridled 
jokes which still had a touch of usefulness in them. 

" I laugh instead of crying," she used to say. 
4< There is some fun in laughing and there isn't 
any in crying, and it is ridiculous in one way." 

She made many of these rueful jokes in the 
days that followed. It seemed as if these were 
months of days and the tension became more 
than was bearable. It is likely that only a few 
weeks passed. 

But at last at last something came. Not the 
manuscript with all the stamps in a row, but a 
letter. 

And she and Edith and Mamma and Edwina 
sat down panting to read it. 

And when it was read they could not under- 
stand it ! 

The letter was not preserved, but the memory 
of the impression it created preserved itself. 

Somehow it seemed strangely vague to their 
inexperienced minds. It began thank God by 
praising the story. It seemed to like it. It 
plainly did not despise it at all. Its sole criti- 
cisms were on the unceremonious abbreviation of 
a name, and an intimation that it was rather long. 
It did not say it was refused, but neither Edith 



And So She Did 317 

nor the Small Person were at all sure that it meant 
that it was accepted, and it said nothing about 
the Remuneration. 

" Have they accepted it? " said the Small Per- 
son. 

" They haven't rejected it," said Edith. 

" They evidently think it is rather good," said 
Mamma. 

" I don't know exactly what they mean," the 
Small Person finally decided, " but I believe it 
has something to do with the Remuneration." 

Perhaps it had, and perhaps it had not. Per- 
haps greater experience might have been able to 
reach something technical in it they could not 
see. They read and re-read it, thought and rea- 
soned, and invented translations. But the only 
conclusion they could reach was that perhaps Re- 
muneration not being the Editor's object, was his 
objection, and that he thought that by adroit en- 
couragement and discouragement he might ob- 
tain the prize without the Object. 

So after a little waiting the Small Person wrote 
to ask for its return. In after years she was fre- 
quently puzzled by her memory of that first letter. 
She never knew what it had meant. Experience 
taught her that it was curiously unbusiness-like, 
and inclined her to believe that in some way it 
was meant to convey that the objection was the 
Remuneration. 



318 The One / Knew the Best of All 

Then the story was sent to another Editor. 

" I'll try two or three times," the Author said 
to Edith. " I won't give up the first minute, but 
1 won't keep on forever. If they don't want it, 
that must mean that it isn't good enough." 

The story whose real name was not " Miss Des- 
borough's Difficulties," but something rather like 
it was one she had planned and partially written 
in her thirteenth year, in the Square. One or two 
cherished scenes she had written in the old ac- 
count-books. Many years later, on being ex- 
humed from among old magazines in the Con- 
gressional Library, and read again, it revealed 
itself quite a respectable, but not in the least strik- 
ing, story of love, estrangement, and reconcilia- 
tion between a stately marvel of English young- 
lady beauty and good-breeding, and the stalwart, 
brave, and masculine British officer, who was 
separated and suffered with her in high-bred dig- 
nity and fine endurance. It was an evident- 
though unconscious echo of like stories in Corn- 
hill^ Temple Bar, and London Society. The Small 
Person had been much attached to these periodi- 
cals. Its meritorious features were a certain real- 
ity of feeling in the people who lived in it, and a 
certain nice quality in the feeling itself. How- 
ever trifling and romantic the plot, the officer 
was a nice fellow and a gentleman, the beauteous 
English maiden had good manners, and her 



And So She Did 319 

friends, the young-married people, were sympa- 
thetic and sweet-tempered. It moved with some 
dramatic touch and had an air of conviction. 
Otherwise it had no particular qualities or origi- 
nality. 

Did months elapse again before they heard 
from the second Editor or was it years? Per- 
haps it was only weeks, but they contained sev- 
eral protracted lifetimes. 

And then ! Another letter ! Not the manu- 
script yet ! 

" SIR : (They were immensely edified at being 
called Sir.) Your story, * Miss Desborough's Dif- 
ficulties,' is so distinctly English that our reader 
is not sure of its having been written by an 
American. We see that the name given us for 
the address is not that of the writer. (The Sa- 
maritan friend had lent his name that the mail 
might evade the Boys.) Will you kindly inform 
us if the story is original ? 

" Yours, truly," etc. 

This was the letter in effect. It would be im- 
possible to recall the exact words. 

Shaken to the centre of her being the Small 
Person replied by the next mail. 

" The story is original. I am English myself, 
and have only been a short time in America." 



320 The One I Knew the Best of AIL 

The Editor replied quite promptly : 

" Before we decide will you send us another 
story ? " 

How they were elated almost to delirium ! 
How delighted Mamma's smile was ! How the 
two unliterary ones exulted and danced about. 

" It will be Accepted ! It will be Accepted ! 
It will be Accepted ! ' they danced about exclaim- 
ing. 

" Perhaps the Editor will buy them both ! " said 
Edith. " That will be two instead of one ! ' 

The Small Person went up to the raftered 
room positively trembling with joy and excite- 
ment. The Editor did not believe she had writ- 
ten her own story. He would not believe it until 
she wrote another. He would see ! She would 
show him ! 

The little cat lay curled up in her arm for three 
days, seeming lulled by the endless scratching of 
the pen. She said nothing, but perhaps in some 
occult feline way she was assisting. The Small 
Person's cheeks blazed hotter and hotter. She 
felt as if she were running a race for life or death. 
But she was not tired. She was strung up to the 
highest and intensest pitch. The Story was good 
to her. Her best beloved, who had stood by her 
all her vivid short life making dull things bright 
and bright things brilliant who had touched the 
face of all the world with a tender, shining hand 



And So She Did 321 

-who had never deserted her did not desert 
her now. Faithful and dear fair shadow of 
things, how passionately she loved it ! In three 
days the new story was finished. It was shorter 
than " Miss Desborough," but she knew it was as 
good, and that the Editor would see it was writ- 
ten by the same hand. But she made it an Ameri- 
can story without a touch of English coloring. 
And the grapes had brought enough money for 
more postage-stamps. 

She did not walk for the next few days she 
danced. She chased about the woods wildly, 
gathering more flowers and leaves and following 
more birds than ever. Sometimes when she went 
to the hollow in the road she felt as if she might 
be lifted from her feet by the strange exhilaration 
within her, and carried away over the variegated 
tree-tops into the blue. 

Her stories were of some use after all. They 
were not altogether things to be laughed at be- 
cause they were Romantic. Somehow she felt 
almost as if she were vindicating and exalting a 
friend who had been kind and tender, and yet 
despised. Ah, how good it was ! If all would go 
well if she might go on if she need be ashamed 
no longer but write openly as many stories as 
she liked how good to be alive ! She was so 
young and ardent, she knew nothing and believed 
everything. It might have been arranged by Fort- 

21 



322 The One I Knew the Best of All 

une that she should get the fullest, finest flavor 
of it. When the answer came they were passing 
through one of " the Family's Downs." That 
was their manner of describing the periods when 
everything seemed at its worst ; when even the 
Boys, who were robustly life-enjoying creatures 
wished " something would turn up." Nothing is 
more trying than to feel that one's sole hope is 
that " something may turn up." The something 
usually turns down. 

And on one of these days the Letter came. 
Standing by a table in the bare little room, the 
Small Person opened it with quivering hands, 
while Mamma and Edith looked tremblingly on. 

She read it, rather weakly, aloud. 

"SiR: x We have decided to accept your two 
stories, and enclose payment. Fifteen dollars for 
' Aces or Clubs,' and twenty dollars for ' Miss Des- 
borough's Difficulties.' We shall be glad to hear 

from you again. 

" Yours, truly," etc. 

She gave a little hysterical laugh, which was 

half a gasp. 

They they've accepted it," she said, rather 
obviously to Edith, " and they've sent me thirty- 
five dollars." 

" Well, my dear," said Mamma, quite tremu- 



And So She Did 323 

lously, " they really were very nice tales. I could 
not help thinking so." 

" They are Accepted," cried Edith, quite shrill 
with ecstasy. " And they will take more. And 
you can go on writing them all your life." 

And just at that moment as if it had been ar- 
ranged like a scene in a play, one of the Boys 
came in. It was the elder one, and rather an inti- 
mate of the Small Person, of whom he was really 
quite fond, though he considered her Romantic, 
and having a strong sense of humor, his witticisms 
on the subject of the stories had been well worth 
hearing. 

" What's up?" he said. "What is the matter 
with you all ? ' 

" Come out on the Porch," said the Small Per- 
son. 

Why she was suddenly overwhelmed with a 
sort of shyness, which embraced even Mamma 
and Edith, she could not have told. 

" Well," he said, when they stood outside. 

" I've just had a letter," said the Small Person, 
awkwardly. " It's it's from an Editor." 

"An Editor!" he repeated. "What does that 
mean ? ' 

" I sent him one of my stories," she went on, 
feeling that she was getting red. " And he 
wouldn't believe 1 had written it, and he wrote 
and asked me to send another, I suppose to prove 



324 The One I Knew the Best of All 



fv^ 




\ 



I could do it. And I wrote another and sent it. 
And he has accepted them both, and sent me 
thirty-five dollars." 

" Thirty-five dollars!' he exclaimed, staring at 
her. 



And So Sh-e Did 325 

" Yes," she answered. " Here's the check." 

And she held it out to him. 

He took it and looked at it, and broke into a 
good-natured, delighted, boyish laugh. 

" Well, by Jove ! ' said he, looking at her, half- 
amused and half-amazed. "That's first -class, 
isn't it? By Jove!" 

" Yes," she said, " it is. And they want some 
more. And I am going to write some as many 
as I can a whole lot ! ' 

And so she did. 

But she had crossed the delicate, impalpable 
dividing line. And after that, Life itself began, 
and memories of her lose the meaning which at- 
taches itself to the memories of the Mind of a 
Child. 



THE END.